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Full text of "The great quest; a romance of 1826, wherein are recorded the experiences of Josiah Woods of Topham, and of those others with whom he sailed for Cuba and the Gulf of Guinea"

CHARLES 
BOARDMAN 








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THE GREAT QUEST 




I gave a quick jerk, literally my foot was held, I lost my balance 
and all bitt went over. 



THE 

GREAT QUEST 

A romance of 1826, wherein are recorded 
the experiences of Josiah Woods of Topham, 
and of those others -with whom he sailed 
for Cuba and the Gulf of Guinea. 

BY 

CHARLES BOARDMAN HAWES 

Author of " The Mutineers " 




Illustrated by 
GEORGE VARIAN 



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BOSTON 
LITTLE, BROWN, AND COMPANY 

1930 






-OH, Lt'.'O 
TILDEN FOUNDATIONS. 



Copyright, 1920, 1921 

By THE TORBELL COMPANY 

(Publishers of The Open Road) 

Copyright, 1921 
By CHARLES BOARDMAN HAWES 



First Impression, September, 1921 
Second Impression, January', 1922 
Third Impression, May, 1923 
Fourth Impression, December, 1924 
Fifth Impression, October, 1925 
Sixth Impression, September, 1928 
Seventh Impression, April, 1930 



THE ATLANTIC MONTHLY PRESS PUBLICATIONS 

ARE PUBLISHED BY 

LITTLE, BROWN, AND COMPANY 

IN ASSOCIATION WITH 



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Printed in the United States of America 



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To 
MY FATHER AND MOTHER 



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CONTENTS 

I 
AN OLD ACQUAINTANCE 

I The Stranger 3 

II My Uncle Behaves Queerly 12 

III Higgleby's Barn 18 

IV Swords and Ships 26 

V A Mysterious Project 36 

II 
HANDS ACROSS THE SEA 

VI Good-bye to Old Haunts and Faces .... 49 

VII A Wild Night 63 

VIII The Brig Adventure 81 

IX An Old Sea Song 87 

III 
A LOW LAND IN THE EAST 

X Matterson 99 

XI New Light on an Old Friend 109 

XII Captain North Again 119 

XIII Issues Sharply Drawn 132 

XIV Land Ho! 137 

IV 
THREE DESPERATE MEN 

XV The Island 151 

XVI Strangest of All 165 



XVII The Man from the Jungle 173 

XVIII A Warning Defied 185 

XIX Burned Bridges 193 

V 

THE HOUSE ON THE HILL 

XX Up Stream 201 

XXI A Grim Surprise 212 

XXII Siege 225 

XXIII Sortie 234 

VI 
FOR OUR VERY LIVES 

XXIV Spears in the Dark 247 

XXV Cards and Chess 252 

XXVI An Unseen Foe 261 

XXVII The Fort Falls 268 

XXVIII Down the Current 283 

XXIX The Fight at the Landing 295 

VII 
THE LONG ROAD HOME 

XXX The Cruiser 307 

XXXI A Passage at Arms 321 

XXXII Westward Bound 332 

XXXIII The Door of Disaster 340 

XXXIV An Old, Old Story 352 

XXXV EheuFugaces! 357 



ILLUSTRATIONS 



T gave a quick jerk, literally my foot was held, I lost my 

balance and all but went over Frontispiece 

Clapping his hand to the wound, the landlord went white 

and leaned back against the bar 78 

" In the name of Heaven, Neil, don't tell ! Don't tell ! ' . 142 

There in a chair by the table sat a stark skeleton dressed in 

good sound clothes 220 

And with that the two sat down by the board . . . and began 
perhaps the most extraordinary game of chess that ever 
two men played 258 



I 

OLD ACQUAINTANCE 



THE GREAT QUEST 



CHAPTER I 
THE STRANGER 

ONE morning early in the summer of 1826, I brushed 
the sweat from my forehead and the flour from my clothes, 
unrolled my shirt-sleeves to my wrists, donned my coat, 
and, with never a suspicion that that day was to be unlike 
any other, calmly walked out into the slanting sunshine. 
Rain had fallen in the night, and the air was still fresh 
and cool. Although the clock had but just struck six, I 
had been at work an hour, and now that my uncle, Seth 
Upham, had come down to take charge of the store, I was 
glad that some business discussed the evening before gave 
me an excuse to go on an errand to the other end of the 
village. 

Uncle Seth looked up from his ledger as I passed. "You 
are prompt to go," said he. "I've scarce got my hat on 
the peg. Well, the sooner the better, I suppose. Young 
Mackay's last shipment of oil was of poor quality and 
color. The rascal needs a good wigging, but the best you 
can do is tell the old man my opinion of his son's goods. 
If he gets a notion that we're likely to go down to nine 
cents a gallon on the next lot, he '11 bring the boy to taw, 
I'll warrant you. Well, be gone. The sooner you go, the 
sooner you'll come, and we're like to have a busy day." 

I nodded and went down the steps, but turned again 
and looked back. As Uncle Seth sat at his desk just in- 
side the door, his bald head showing above the ledgers, 



4 THE GKEAT QUEST 

he made me think of a pigeon-holed document concerned 
with matters of trade - - weights and measures, and dol- 
lars and cents. He was a brisk, abrupt little man, with 
keen eyes and a thin mouth, and lines that cut at sharp 
angles into his forehead and drew testy curves around his 
chin ; and in his way he was prominent in the village. 
Though ours was a community of Yankees, he had the 
reputation, in which he took great pride, of being an un- 
commonly sharp hand at a bargain. That it could be a 
doubtful compliment, he never suspected. 

He owned property in three towns besides our own vil- 
lage of Topham; he kept a very considerable balance in a 
Boston bank; he loaned money at interest from one end of 
the county to the other, and he held shares in two school 
ers and a bark - - not to mention the bustling general 
store that was the keystone of his prosperity. 

If anyone had presumed so far as to suggest that a 
close bargain could be aught but creditable, Uncle Seth 
would have shot a testy glance at him, -with some such 
comment as, "Pooh! He's drunk or crazy!" And he 
would then have atoned for any little trickery by his gen- 
erosity, come Sunday, when the offering was taken at 
church. 

There were, to be sure, those who said, by allusion or 
implication, that he would beat the devil at his own game, 
for all his pains to appear so downright honest. But they 
were ne'er-do-weels and village scoundrels, whom Uncle 
Seth, although he was said to have known them well 
enough in early youth, passed without deigning to give 
them so much as a nod; and of course no one believed the 
word of such as they. 

For my own part, I had only friendly feelings toward 
him, for he was always a decent man, and since my 
mother died, his odd bursts of generosity had touched 



THE STRANGER 5 

me not a little. Grumpy old Uncle Seth ! Others might 
call him "nigh," but for all his abrupt manner, he was 
kind to me after a queer, short fashion, and many a bank- 
note had whisked from his pocket to mine at moments 
when a stranger would have thought him in furious 
temper. 

Turning on my heel, I left him busy at his desk amid 
his barrels and cans and kegs and boxes, and unwittingly 
set forth to meet the beginning of the wildest, maddest 
adventure that I ever heard of outside the pages of 
fiction. 

As I went down past the church, the parsonage, and the 
smithy, the little group of buildings that, together with 
our general store, formed the hub on which the life of the 
country for many miles thereabouts revolved, - - I was 
surprised to see no one astir. Few country people then 
were - - or now are - - so shameless as to lie in bed at six 
o'clock of a summer morning. 

By rights I should have heard the clank of metal, the 
hum of voices, men calling to their horses, saws whining 
through wood, and hammers driving nails. But there 
was no sound of speech or labor ; the nail-kegs on which 
our village worthies habitually reposed during long inter- 
vals of the working day were unoccupied ; the fire in the 
blacksmith's forge, for want of blowing, had died down 
to a dull deep red. Three horses were tugging at their 
halters inside the smithy, and a well-fed team was waiting 
outside by a heavy cart; yet no one was anywhere to be 
seen. 

Perceiving all this from a distance, I was frankly puz- 
zled ; and as I approached, I cast about with lively curios- 
ity to see what could cause so strange a state of affairs. 
It was only when I had gone past the smithy, that I saw 
the smith and his customers and his habitual guests gath- 



6 THE GREAT QUEST 

ered on the other side of the building, where I had not 
been able to see them before. They were staring at the 
old village tavern, which stood some distance away on a 
gentle rise of land. 

My curiosity so prevailed over my sense of duty that I 
turned from the road through the tall grass, temporarily 
abandoning my errand, and picked my way among some 
old wheels and scrap iron to join the men. 

Their talk only aggravated my wonder. 

Clearing his throat, the smith gruffly muttered, "It 
does act like him, and yet I can't believe it'll be him.'' 

"Why shouldn't he come back?" one of the farmers 
asked in a louder voice. "Things done twenty years 
ago will never be dragged up to face him, and he 'd know 
that," 

The smith grunted. "Where would Neil Gleazen find 
the money to buy a suit of good clothes and a beaver hat ? ' 

"That's easy answered," a third speaker put in. And 
they all exchanged significant glances. 

In the silence that followed I made bold to put a ques- 
tion for myself. "Of whom are you talking?" I asked. 

They looked closely at me and again exchanged glances. 

"There's someone up yonder at the inn, Joe," the 
smith said kindly; "and Ben, here, getting sight of him 
last night and again this morning, has took a notion that 
it's a fellow who used to live here years ago and who left 
town - - well, in a hurry. As to that, I can't be sure, but I 
vum, I'd not be surprised if it was Neil Gleazen after all." 

I now discerned in one of the rocking-chairs on the 
porch the figure of a stranger, well dressed so far as we 
could see at that distance, who wore a big beaver hat set 
rakishly a trifle forward. He had thrust his thumbs into 
the armholes of his waistcoat, and as he leaned back, with 
his feet raised against one of the columns that supported 



THE STRANGER 7 

the porch-roof, he sent clouds of white cigar-smoke eddy- 
ing up and away. 

The others were so intent on their random speculations 
that, when I asked more about who and what Neil Gleazen 
was, they ignored my question, and continued to exchange 
observations in low voices. 

I could hear little of their talk without forcing myself 
into their very midst, and of what little I heard I made 
still less, for it was full of unfamiliar names and reminis- 
cences that meant nothing to me. 

When some one spoke of Seth Upham, my mother's 
brother, I was all ears on the instant ; but I saw the smith 
glance at me, and probably he nudged the speaker, for, 
after a moment's pause, they went on about indifferent 
matters. I then perceived that I was unlikely to learn 
more, so I returned to the road and continued on my way. 

As I passed the tavern I took occasion to see what I 
could, in courtesy, of the stranger ; but he looked so hard 
at me while I was passing that I could steal only glances 
at him, unless I gave him stare for stare, which I did not 
wish to do. So I got only a brief glimpse of tall hat, bold 
dark eyes under bushy brows, big nose, smooth-shaven 
chin, and smiling mouth, all of which a heavy stock and 
voluminous coat seemed to support. I thought that I 
caught the flash of a jeweled pin in the man's stock and 
of a ring on his ringer, but of that I was not sure until 
later. Pushing on, I left him in the old inn chair, as 
proud as a sultan, puffing clouds of white smoke from a 
long cigar and surveying the village as grandly as if he 
owned it, while I went about my uncle's business at the 
other end of the town. 

But when I had gone far on my way, his dark face and 
arrogant manner were still in my mind. While I was 
arguing with surly old Dan Mackay about whale-oil and 



8 THE GEE AT QUEST 

horses and sugar and lumber, I was thinking of those 
proud, keen eyes and that smiling, scornful mouth ; while 
I was bargaining with Mrs. Mackay for eggs and early 
peas, I was thinking of the beaver that the man had 
worn and the big ring on his finger ; and while I was walk- 
ing back over two miles of country road, on which the 
sun was now pouring down with ever-increasing heat, I 
was thinking of how my uncle's name had popped out in 
the conversation beside the smithy - - and how it had 
popped, so to speak, discreetly back again. 

I was all eagerness, now, for another and better look at 
the stranger, and was resolved to stare him out of coun- 
tenance, if need be, to get it. Imagine, then, my disap- 
pointment when, hot and sweaty, I once more came in 
sight of the tavern and saw the unmistakable figure under 
the beaver hat walk jauntily down the steps, pause a 
moment in the road, and, turning hi the opposite direc- 
tion, go rapidly away from me. 

The stranger should not escape me like that, I thought 
with a grim chuckle ; and warm though I was, I length- 
ened my stride and drew slowly up on him. 

As he passed the smithy, he looked to neither right nor 
left, yet I was by no means sure that he did not see the 
curious faces that filled the door when he went by. A 
man can see so much without turning his head ! 

While I toiled on after him, trying to appear indifferent 
and yet striving to overtake him before he should go 
beyond the store, where I must turn in, would I or would 
I not, he passed the church, the parsonage, and the school- 
house. He wore his hat tilted forward at just such an 
angle, and to one side over his right eye ; swinging his 
walking-stick nonchalantly, he clipped the blossoms off the 
buttercups as he passed them ; now he paused to light a 
fresh cigar from the butt of the one that he was smoking ; 



THE STRANGER 9 

now he lingered a moment in the shade of an old chestnut 
tree. All the time I was gaining on him ; but now the 
.store was hard by. 

Should I keep on until I had passed him and, turning 
back, could meet him face to face ? No, Uncle Seth would 
surely stop me. In my determination to get a good look 
at the man, I was about to break into a run, when, to my 
amazement, he turned to the left toward the very place 
where I was going. 

So close to him had I now come that, when he stood on 
the threshold, I was setting foot on the lower step. I 
could see Uncle Seth's clerks, Arnold Lament, a French- 
man, and Simeon Muzzy, busily at work in the back 
room. I could see, as before, Uncle Seth's bald head 
shining above the top of his desk. But my eyes were 
all for the stranger, and I now saw plainly that in the 
ring on his finger there flashed a great white diamond. 

Uncle Seth, hearing our steps, raised his head. "Well ? " 
he said sharply, in the dictatorial way that was so char- 
acteristic of him. 

"Well!" repeated the stranger in a voice that startled 
me. It was deep and gruff, and into the monosyllable 
the man put a solid, heavy emphasis, w r hich made my 
uncle's sharpness seem as light as a woman's burst of 
temper. 

Uncle Seth, too, was startled, I think, for he raised his 
head and irritably peered over the steel rims of his spec- 
tacles. "Well," he grumpily responded, "what do you 
want of me?' ; 

"An hour of your time," said the stranger, lowering his 
voice. 

' Time's money," returned my uncle. 
; I'm the lad to transmute it into fine gold for you, 
Seth Upham," said the stranger. 



HI 

It 



10 THE GREAT QUEST 

"How do you know my name?' : 

"That's a foolish question to ask. Everyone in town 
can tell a stranger the name of the man who keeps the 

village store." 

My uncle grunted irritably, and brushed his chin with 

the feather of his quill. 

"Come," said the stranger, " where 's a chair?" 

"Them that come to this store to loaf," my uncle cried, 
"generally sit on cracker-boxes. I'm a busy man." 

He was still looking closely at the stranger, but his 
voice indicated that, after all, it might not be so hard to 
mollify him. 

"Well, I ain't proud," the stranger said with a con- 
ciliatory gesture, but without the faintest nicker of a 
smile. "It won't be the first time I've set on a cracker- 
box and talked to Seth Upham. I mind a time once 
when old Parker used to keep the store, and me and you 
had stole our hats full of crackers, which we ate in the 
little old camp over by the river." 

"Who," cried Uncle Seth, "who in heaven's name are 
you?" 

He was pale to the very summit of his bald head ; un- 
conscious of what he was doing, he had thrust his pen 
down on the open ledger, where it left a great blotch of 
wet ink. 

"Hgh! You've got no great memory for old friends, 
have you, Seth? You're rich now, I hear. Money-bags 
full of gold. Well, ' tune's money,' you said. You're 
going to put in a golden hour with me this day." 

Uncle Seth got up and laid a trembling hand on the 
back of his desk. "Neil Gleazen! Cornelius Gleazen!" 
he gasped. 

The stranger pushed his beaver back on his head, and 
with the finger on which the diamond sparkled flicked the 



THE STRANGER 11 

ash from his cigar. " It's me, Seth," he returned ; and for 
the first time since I had seen him he laughed a deep, 
hearty laugh. 

"Well, what '11 you have?" Uncle Seth demanded 
hotly. " I 'm an honest man. I 'm a deacon in the church. 
My business is an honest business. There's nothing here 
for you, Neil ! What do you want?' : 

In spite of his apparent anger, or because of it, 
Uncle Seth's voice trembled. 

"Well, what do you mean by all this talk of an honest 
man? Ain't I an honest man?" 

" Why --why - 

"Hgh! You've not got much to say to that, have 
you?" 

"I - - why - - 1 don't - - know - 

"Of course you don't know. You don't know an hon- 
est man when you see one. Don't talk to me like that, 
Seth Upham. You and me has robbed too many churches 
together when we was boys to have you talk like that 
now. You and me - 

"For heaven's sake keep still!" Uncle Seth cried. 
"Customers are coming." 

Neil Gleazen grunted again. Pushing a cracker-box 
into the corner behind Uncle Seth's desk and placing his 
beaver on it, he settled back in Uncle Seth's own chair, 
with a cool impudent wink at me, as if for a long stay, 
while Uncle Seth, with an eagerness quite unlike his usual 
abrupt, scornful manner, rushed away from his unwel- 
come guest and proceeded to make himself surprisingly 
agreeable to a pah- of country women who wished to bar- 
ter butter for cotton cloth. 



CHAPTER II 
MY UNCLE BEHAVES QUEERLY 

THE village of Topham, to which, after an absence of 
twenty years, Cornelius Gleazen had returned as a stran- 
ger, lay near the sea and yet not beside it, near the post 
road and yet not upon it. From the lower branches of 
an old pine that used to stand on the hill behind the tav- 
ern we could see a thread of salt water, which gleamed 
like silver in the sun ; and, on the clearest days, if we 
climbed higher, we could sometimes catch a glimpse of 
tiny ships working up or down the coast. 

In the other direction, if we faced about, we could see, 
far down a long, broad valley, between low hills, a bit of 
white road that ran for a mile or two between meadows 
and marshes ; and on the road we sometimes saw moving 
black dots trailing tiny clouds of dust, which we knew 
were men and horses and coaches. 

In Topham I was born, and there I spent my boyhood. 
I suppose that I was quieter than the average boy and 
more studious, for I was content to find adventures in 
the pages of books, and I read from cover to cover all the 
journals of the day that came to hand. Certainly I was a 
dreamy lad, who knew books better than men, and who 
cared so little for "practical affairs" that much passed 
me by unnoticed which many another youth of no more 
native keenness would instantly have perceived. 

When my mother, some years after my father's death, 
came to live with her brother and keep his house for him, 
it did not make so great a change in my manner of life as 
one might have expected. Bustling, smart Uncle Seth 



MY UNCLE BEHAVES QUEEKLY 13 

ruled the household with a quick, nervous hand; and for 
the time, as he bent all his energies to the various projects 
in which he was interested and in which he was more than 
ordinarily successful, he almost ignored his nephew. 

It was not strange that after my mother died Uncle 
Seth should give me more thought, for he was left a sec- 
ond time alone in the world, and except for me he had 
neither close friend nor blood relation. I think that his 
very shrewdness, which must have shown him how much 
a man needs friends, perversely kept him from making 
them ; it built around him a fence of cold, calculating, sel- 
fish appraisal that repelled most people whom he might 
have drawn closer to him. But to me, who had on him 
claims of a kind, and whom he had come by slow stages 
to know intimately, he gave a queer, testy, impulsive 
affection ; and although the first well-meant but ill- 
chosen act by which he manifested it was to withdraw 
me from my books to the store, where he set me to learn 
the business, for which I was by no means so grateful as 
I should have been, both I and his two clerks, Sim Muzzy 
and Arnold Lamont, to whom long association had re- 
vealed the spontaneous generosity of which he seemed 
actually to be ashamed, had a very real affection for him. 

It was no secret that he intended to make me his heir, 
and I was regarded through the town as a young man of 
rare prospects, which reconciled me in a measure to ex- 
changing during the day my worn volumes of Goldsmith 
and Defoe for neat columns that represented profit and 
loss on candles and sugar and spice ; and my hard, faith- 
ful work won Uncle Seth's confidence, and with it a curi- 
ously grudging acknowledgment. Thus our little world of 
business moved monotonously, though not unpleasantly, 
round and round the cycle of the seasons, until the day 
when Cornelius Gleazen came back to his native town. 



14 THE GREAT QUEST 

He continued to sit in my uncle's chair, that first morn- 
ing, while Uncle Seth, perspiring, it seemed to me, more 
freely than the heat of the day could have occasioned, 
bustled about and waited on his customers. I suppose 
that Neil Gleazen really saw nothing out of the ordinary 
in Uncle Seth's manner ; but to me, who knew him so 
well now, it was plain that, instead of trying to get the 
troublesome women and their little business of eggs and 
cloth done with and out of the store as quickly as pos- 
sible, which under the circumstances was what I should 
have expected of him, he was trying by every means hi 
his power to prolong their bartering. And whether or not 
Neil Gleazen suspected this, with imperturbable assur- 
ance he watched Uncle Seth pass from one end of the store 
to the other. 

When at last the women went away and Uncle Seth 
returned to his desk, Gleazen removed the beaver from 
the cracker-box, and blowing a ring of smoke out across 
the top of the desk, watched the draft from the door tear 
it into thin blue shreds. "Sit down," he said calmly. 

I was already staring at them in amazement ; but my 
amazement was fourfold when Uncle Seth hesitated, 
gulped, and seated himself on the cracker-box. 

"Joe," he said in an odd voice, "go help Arnold and 
Sim in the back shop." 

So I went out and left them ; and when I came back, 
Cornelius Gleazen was gone. But the next day he came 
again, and the next, and the next. 

That he was the very man the smith and his cronies 
had thought him, I learned beyond peradventure of a 
doubt. Strange tales were whispered here and there 
about the village, and women covertly turned their eyes 
to watch him when he passed. Some men who had known 
him in the old days tried to conceal it, and pretended to 



MY UNCLE BEHAVES QUEERLY 15 

be ignorant of all that concerned him, and gave him the 
coldest of cold stares when they chanced to meet him 
face to face. Others, on the contrary, courted his atten- 
tion and called on him at the tavern, and went away, red 
with anger, when he coldly snubbed them. 

At the time it seemed to make little difference to him 
what they thought. Strangely enough, the Cornelius 
Gleazen who had come back to his boyhood home was a 
very different Cornelius, people found, from the one who, 
twenty years before, had gone away by night with the 
town officers hot on his trail. 

Strange stories of that wild night passed about the 
town, and I learned, in one way and another, that Gleazen 
was not the only lad who had then disappeared. There 
was talk of one Eli Norton, and of foul play, and an ugly 
word was whispered. But it had all happened long be- 
fore, much had been forgotten, and some things had never 
come to light, and the officers who had run Gleazen out 
of town were long since dead. So, as the farmer by the 
smithy had said would be the case, the old scandals were 
let lie, and Gleazen went his way unmolested. 

That my uncle would gladly have been rid of the fel- 
low, for all his grand airs and the pocketfuls of money 
that he would throw out on the bar at the inn or on the 
counter at the store, I very well knew ; I sometimes saw 
him wince at Gleazen's effrontery, or start to retort with 
his customary sharpness, and then go red or pale and press 
his lips to a straight line. Yet I could not imagine why 
this should be. If any other man had treated him so, 
Uncle Seth would have turned on him with the sharpest 
words at his command. 

It was not like him to sit meekly down to another's 
arrogance. He had been too long a leading man in our 
community. But Cornelius Gleazen seemed to have cast 



16 THE GREAT QUEST 

a spell upon him. The longer Gleazen would sit and 
watch Uncle Seth, the more overbearing would his man- 
ner become and the more nervous would Uncle Seth 
grow. 

I then believed, and still do, that if my uncle had stood 
up to him, as man to man, on that first day, Neil Gleazen 
would have pursued a very different course. But Uncle 
Seth, if he realized it at all, realized it too late. 

At the end of a week Gleazen seemed to have become a 
part of the store. He would frown and look away out of 
the window, and scarcely deign to reply if any of the poorer 
or less reputable villagers spoke to him, whether their 
greeting was casual or pretentious; but he would nod af- 
fably, and proffer cigars, and exchange observations on 
politics and affairs of the world, when the minister or the 
doctor or any other of the solid, substantial men of the 
place came in. 

I sometimes saw Uncle Seth surreptitiously watching 
him with a sort of blank wonder ; and once, when we had 
come home together late at night, he broke a silence of a 
good two hours by remarking as casually as if we had 
talked of nothing else all the evening, "I declare to good- 
ness, Joe, it does seem as if Neil Gleazen had reformed. 
I could almost take my oath he 's not spoken to one of the 
old crowd since he returned. Who would have thought 
it ? It's strange - - passing strange." 

It was the question that the whole town was asking - 
who would have thought it ? I had heard enough by now 
of the old escapades, drunken revels in the tavern, raids 
on a score of chicken-roosts and gardens, arrant burglary, 
and even, some said, arson, to understand why they 
asked the question. But more remarkable by far to me 
was the change that had come over my uncle. Never 
before had the business of the store been better; never 



MY UNCLE BEHAVES QUEERLY 17 

before had there been more mortgages and notes locked 
up in the big safe: never had our affairs of every descrip- 
tion flourished so famously. But whereas, in other seasons 
of greater than ordinary prosperity, Uncle Seth had be- 
come almost genial, I had never seen him so dictatorial 
and testy as now. Some secret fear seemed to haunt him 
from day to day and from week to week. 

Thinking back on that morning when Cornelius Gleazen 
first came to our store, I remembered a certain sentence 
he had spoken. "You and me has robbed too many 
churches together when we was boys - I wondered if I 
could not put my finger on the secret of the change that 
had come over my uncle. 



CHAPTER III 

HIGGLEBY'S BARN 

THAT Cornelius Gleazen had returned to Topham a 
reformed and honest man, the less skeptical people in 
the village now freely asserted. To be sure, some said 
that no good could come from any man who wore a dia- 
mond on his finger, to say nothing of another in his stock, 
and the minister held aloof for reasons known only to 
himself. But there was something hearty and whole- 
some in Gleazen's gruff voice and blunt, kindly wit that 
quite turned aside the shafts of criticism, particularly 
when he had made it plain that he would associate only 
with people of unquestioned respectability ; and his de- 
vout air, as he sat in the very front pew in church and 
sang the hymns in a fine, reverberating bass, almost - 
although never quite - - won over even the minister. All 
were agreed that you could pardon much in a man who 
had lived long in foreign parts ; and if any other argu- 
ment were needed, Gleazen's own free-handed gener- 
osity for every good cause provided it. 

There were even murmurs that a man with Seth 
Upham's money might well learn a lesson from the 
stranger within our gates, which came to my uncle's 
ears, by way of those good people you can find in every 
town who feel it incumbent on them to repeat in con- 
fidence that which they have gained in confidence, and 
caused him no little uneasiness. 

Of the probity of Cornelius Gleazen the village came 
gradually to have few doubts ; and those of us who be- 
lieved in the man were inclined to belittle the black- 



HIGGLEBY'S BARN 19 

smith, who persisted in thinking ill of him, and even the 
minister. Unquestionably Gleazen had seen the error of 
his youthful ways and had profited by the view, which, 
by all accounts, must have been extensive. 

It was a fine thing to see him sitting on the tavern 
porch or in my uncle's store and discoursing on the news 
of the day. By a gesture, he would dispose of the riots 
in England and leave us marveling at his keenness. The 
riots held a prominent place in the papers, and we argued 
that a man who could so readily place them where they 
belonged must have a head of no mean order. Of af- 
fairs in South America, where General Paez had become 
Civil and Military Dictator of Venezuela, he had more to 
say ; for General Paez, it seemed, was a friend of his. I 
have wondered since about his boasted friendship with 
the distinguished general, but at the time he convinced 
us that Venezuela was a fortunate state and that her 
affairs were much more important to men of the world 
than a bill to provide for the support of aged survivors of 
the Army of the Revolution, which a persistent one- 
legged old chap from the Four Corners tried a number of 
times to introduce into the conversation. 

There came a day when both the doctor and the min- 
ister joined the circle around Cornelius Gleazen. Never 
was there prouder man ! He fairly expanded in the 
warmth of their interest. His gestures were more im- 
pressive than ever before ; his voice was more assertive. 
Yet behind it all I perceived a curious twinkle in his 
eyes, and I got a perverse impression that even then 
the man was laughing up his sleeve. This did not in 
itself set my mind on new thoughts ; but to add to my 
curiosity, when the doctor and the minister were leaving, 
I saw that they were talking in undertones and smiling 
significantly. 



20 THE GKEAT QUEST 

Late one night toward the end of that week, I was re- 
turning from Boston, whither I had gone to buy ten 
pipes of Schiedam gin and six of Old East India Madeira, 
which a correspondent of my uncle's had lately imported. 
An acquaintance from the next town had given me a 
lift along the post road as far as a certain short cut, which 
led through a pine woods and across an open pasture 
where once there had been a farmhouse and where, al- 
though the house had burned to the ground eight or ten 
years since, a barn still stood, which was known through- 
out the countryside as "Higgleby's." 

The sky was overcast, but the moonlight nevertheless 
sifted through the thin clouds : and with a word of thanks 
to the lad who had brought me thus far, I vaulted the 
bars and struck off toward the pines. 

My eyes were already accustomed to the darkness, and 
the relief from trying to see my way under the thickly 
interwoven branches of the grove made the open pasture, 
when I came to it, seem nearly as light as day, although, 
of course, to anyone coming out into it from a lighted 
room, it would have seemed quite otherwise. Of the old 
barn, which loomed up on the hill, a black, gaunt, lone- 
some object a mile or so away, I thought very little, as I 
walked along, until it seemed to me that I saw a glimmer 
of fire through a breach where a board had been torn off. 

Now the barn w T as remote from the woods and from 
the village ; but the weather had been dry, the dead grass 
in the old pasture was as inflammable as tinder, and 
what wind there was, was blowing toward the pines. 
Since it was plain that I ought to investigate that flash 
of fire, I left the path and began to climb the hill. 

Stopping suddenly, I listened with all my ears. I 
thought I had heard voices ; it behooved me to be cau- 
tious. Prudently, now, I advanced, and as silently as 



HIGGLEBY'S BARN 21 

possible. Now I knew that I heard voices. The knowl- 
edge that there were men in the old barn relieved me of 
any sense of duty in the matter of a possible fire, but at 
the same time it kindled my imagination. Who were 
they, and why had they come, and what were they doing ? 
Instead of walking boldly up to the barn door, I began 
to climb the wall that served as the foundation. 

The wall was six or eight feet high, but built of large 
stones, which afforded me easy hold for foot and hand, 
and from the top I was confident that I could peek in at 
a window just above. Very cautiously I climbed from 
rock to rock, until I was on my knees on the topmost tier. 
Now, twisting about and keeping flat to the barn with 
both arms extended so as not to overbalance and fall, I 
raised myself little by little, only to find, to my keen dis- 
appointment, that the window was still ten inches above 
my eyes. 

That I should give up then, never occurred to me. I 
placed both hands on the sill and silently lifted myself 
until my chin was well above it. 

In the middle of the old barn, by the light of four 
candles, a number of men were playing cards. I could 
hear much of what they said, but it concerned only the 
fortunes of the game, and as they spoke in undertones I 
could not recognize their voices. 

For all that I got from their conversation they might 
as well have said naught, except that the sound of their 
talking and the clink of money as it changed hands served 
to cover whatever small noises I may have made, and 
thus enabled me to look in upon them undiscovered. Nor 
could I see who they were, for the candle light was dim 
and flickered, and those who were back to me, as they 
pressed forward in their eagerness to follow the play, 
concealed the faces of those opposite them. Moreover, 



22 THE GREAT QUEST 

my position was extremely uncomfortable, perhaps even 
dangerous. So I lowered myself until my toes rested on 
the wall of rock, and kneeling very cautiously, began to 
descend. 

Exploring with my foot until I found a likely stone, I 
put my weight on it, and felt it turn. Failing to clutch 
the top of the wall, I went down with a heavy thud. 

For a moment I lay on the ground with my wind 
knocked out of me, completely helpless. Then sharp 
voices broke the silence, and the sound of someone open- 
ing the barn door instilled enough wholesome fear into 
me to enable me to get up on all fours after a fashion, and 
creep cautiously away. 

From the darkness outside, my eyes being already ac- 
customed to the absence of light, I could see a number of 
men standing together in front of the barn door. They 
must have blown out the candles, for the door and the 
windows and the chinks between the boards were dark. 
Cursing myself for a silly fool, I made off as silently as 
possible. 

I had not recognized one of the players, I had got a 
bad tumble and sore joints for my trouble, and my pride 
was hurt. In short, I felt that I had fallen out of the 
small end of the horn, and I was in no cheerful mood as 
I limped along. But by the tune I came into the village 
half an hour later, I had recovered my temper and my 
wind ; and so, although I earnestly desired to go home 
and to bed, to rest my lame bones, I decided to go first 
to the store and report to Uncte Seth the results of my 
mission. 

Through the lighted windows of the store, as I ap- 
proached, I could see Arnold Lamont and Sim Muzzy 
playing chess in the back room. They were a strange 
pair, and as ill matched as any two you ever saw. Lamont 



HIGGLEBY'S BARN 23 

was a Frenchman, who had appeared, seemingly from 
nowhere, ten or a dozen years before, and in quaintly 
precise English had asked for work - - only because it 
was so exceedingly precise, would you have suspected 
that it was a foreigner's English. He carried himself 
with a strange dignity, and his manner, which seemed to 
confer a favor rather than to seek one, had impressed 
Uncle Seth almost against his will. 

"Why, yes," he had said sharply, "there's work enough 
to keep another man. But what, pray, has brought you 
here?" 

"It is the fortune of war," Lamont had replied. And 
that was all that my uncle ever got out of him. 

Without more ado he had joined Sim Muzzy, a well- 
meaning, simple fellow who had already worked for Uncle 
Seth for some eight years, and there he had stayed ever 
since. 

Arnold and Sim shared the room above the store and 
served both as watchmen and as clerks; but it was Sim 
who cooked their meals, who made their beds, who swept 
and dusted and polished. Although the two worked for 
equally small pay and, all in all, were as satisfactory men 
as any storekeeper could hope to have, Arnold had carried 
even into the work of the store that same odd, foreign 
dignity ; and it apparently never occurred, even to petu- 
lant, talkative Sim, that Arnold, so reserved, so quietly 
assured, should have lent his hand to mere domestic 
duties. 

Learning early in their acquaintance, each that the 
other played chess, they had got a board and a set of men, 
and, hi spite of a disparity in skill that for some people 
must have made it very irksome, had kept the game up 
ever since. Arnold Lamont played chess with the same 
precision with which he spoke English; and if Sim Muzzy 



24 THE GREAT QUEST 

managed to catch him napping, and so to win one game 
in twenty, it was a feat to be talked about for a month to 
come. 

Through the windows, as I said, I saw them playing 
chess in the back shop ; then, coming round the corner of 
the store, I saw someone just entering. It was no other 
than Cornelius Gleazen, in beaver, stock, coat, and dia- 
monds, with the perpetual cigar bit tight between his 
teeth. 

A little to my surprise, I noticed that there were beads 
of perspiration on his forehead. I had been walking fast 
myself, and yet I had not thought of it as a warm even- 
ing : the overcast sky and the wind from the sea, with 
then* promise of rain to break the drouth, combined to 
make the night the coolest we had had for some weeks. 
It surprised me also to see that Gleazen was breathing 
hard - - but was he ? I could not be sure. 

Then, through the open door, I again saw Arnold 
Lament in the back room. In his hand he was holding 
a knight just over the square on which it was to rest ; but 
with his eyes he was following Cornelius Gleazen across 
the store and round behind my uncle's desk, where now 
there was a second chair in place of the cracker-box. 

When Gleazen had sat down beside my uncle, he tap- 
ping the desk with a long pencil, which he had drawn 
from his pocket, Uncle Seth bustling about among his 
papers, with quick useless sallies here and there, and into 
the pigeonholes, as if he were confused by the mass of 
business that confronted him, - - it was a manner he some- 
times affected when visitors were present, - - Arnold 
Lamont put down the knight and absently, as if his mind 
were far away, said in his calm, precise voice, "Check !" 

"No, no ! You must n't do that ! You can't do that ! 
That 's wrong ! See ! You were on that square there - 



HIGGLEBY'S BARN 25 

see? and you moved so! You can't put your knight 
there," Sim Muzzy cried. 

That Lament had transgressed by mistake the rules of 
the game hit Sim like a thunderclap and even further be- 
fuddled his poor wits. 

"Ah," said Lamont, "I see. I beg you, pardon my 
error. So ! Check." 

He again moved the knight, apparently without 
thought; and Sim Muzzy fell to biting his lip and puz- 
zling this way and that and working his fingers, which 
he always did when he was getting the worst of the 
game. 

Arnold Lamont seemed not to care a straw about the 
game. Through the door he was watching Cornelius 
Gleazen. And Cornelius Gleazen was wiping his fore- 
head with his handkerchief. 

I wondered if it was my lively imagination that made 
me think that he was breathing quickly. How long 
would it have taken him, I wondered, to cut across the 
pasture from Higgleby's barn to the north road? Com- 
ing thus by the Four Corners, could he have reached the 
store ahead of me? Or could he, by way of the shun- 
pike, have passed me on the road? 



CHAPTER IV 

SWORDS AND SHIPS 

HAVING succeeded in establishing himself in the society 
and confidence of the more substantial men of the village, 
and having discomfited completely those few - - among 
whom remained the blacksmith - - who had treated him 
shabbily in the first weeks of his return and had contin- 
ued ever since to regard him with suspicion, Cornelius 
Gleazen began now to extend his campaign to other quar- 
ters, and to curry favor among those whose good-will, so 
far as I could see, was really of little weight one way or 
another. He now cast off something of his arrogant, dis- 
dainful air, and won the hearts of the children by strange 
knickknacks and scrimshaws, which he would produce, 
sometimes from his pockets, and sometimes, by delect- 
able sleight of hand, from the very air itself. Before 
long half the homes in the village boasted whale's teeth 
on which were wrought pictures of whales and ships and 
savages, or chips of ivory carved into odd little idols, and 
every one of them, you would find, if you took the trouble 
to ask, came from the old chests that Neil Gleazen kept 
under the bed in his room at the tavern, where now he 
was regarded as the prince of guests. 

To those who were a little older he gave more elaborate 
trinkets of ivory and of dark, strange woods ; and the re- 
port grew, and found ready belief, that he had prospered 
greatly in trade before he decided to retire, and that he 
had brought home a fortune with which to settle down 
in the old town ; for the toys that he gave away so freely 
were worth, we judged, no inconsiderable sum. But to 



SWORDS AND SHIPS 27 

the lads in their early twenties, of whom I was one, he 
endeared himself perhaps most of all when, one fine after- 
noon, smoking one of his long cigars and wearing his 
beaver tilted forward at just such an angle, he came down 
the road with a great awkward bundle under his arm, and 
disclosed on the porch of my uncle's store half a dozen 
foils and a pair of masks. 

He smiled when all the young fellows in sight and 
hearing gathered round him eagerly, and called one an- 
other to come and see, and picked up the foils and passed 
at one another awkwardly. There was an odd satisfac- 
tion in his smile, as if he had gained something worth the 
having. What a man of his apparent means could care 
for our good-will, I could not have said if anyone had asked 
me, and at the time I did not think to wonder about it. 
But his air of triumph, when I later had occasion to recall 
it to mind, convinced me that for our good-will he did 
care, and that he was manoeuvring to win and hold it. 

It was interesting to mark how the different ones took 
his playthings. Sim Muzzy cried out in wonder and 
earnestly asked, "Are those what men kill themselves 
with in duels ? Pray how do they stick 'em in when the 
points are blunted?" Arnold Lament, without a word 
or a change of expression, picked up a foil at random and 
tested the blade by bending it against the wall. Uncle 
Seth, having satisfied his curiosity by a glance, cried 
sharply, "That's all very interesting, but there's work 
to be done. Come, come, I pay no one for gawking out 
the door." 

The lively hum of voices continued, and a number of 
town boys remained to examine the weapons ; but Arnold, 
Sim, and I obediently turned back into the store. 

"That's all right, lads," Cornelius Gleazen cried. 
"Come evening, I'll show you a few points on using these 



28 THE GREAT QUEST 

toys. I'll make a fencing-master and a good one, I'll 
have you know, and there are some among you that have 
the making of swordsmen. You're one, Joe Woods, 
you're one." 

I was pleased to be singled out, and went to my work 
with a will, thinking meanwhile of the promised lessons. 
It never occurred to me that Cornelius Gleazen could 
have had a motive that did not appear on the surface for 
so choosing my name from all the rest. 

That evening, true to his promise, he took us in hand 
on the village green, with four fifths of the village stand- 
ing by to watch, and gave us lessons in thrusting and 
parrying and stepping swiftly forward and backward. 
We were an awkward company of recruits, and for our 
pains we got only hearty laughter from the onlookers ; 
but the new sport captured our imagination, and realiz- 
ing that, once upon a time, even Cornelius Gleazen him- 
self had been a tyro, we zealously worked to learn what 
we could, and in our idle moments we watched with frank 
admiration the grand flourishes and great leaps and 
stamps of which Gleazen was master. 

The diamond on the finger of his gracefully curved left 
hand flashed as he sprang about, and his ruffled shirt, 
damped by his unwonted exercise, clung close to his big 
shoulders and well-formed back. Surely, we thought, 
few could equal his surprising agility ; the great voice in 
which he roared his suggestions and commands increased 
our confidence in his knowledge of swordsmanship. 

When, after my second turn at his instruction, I came 
away with my arms aching from the unaccustomed ex- 
ertion and saw that Arnold Lament was watching us and 
covertly smiling, I flamed red and all but lost my temper. 
Why should he laugh at me, I thought. Surely I was no 
clumsier than the others. Indeed, he who thought him- 



SWORDS AND SHIPS 29 

self so smart probably could not do half so well. Had 
not Mr. Gleazen praised me most of all? In my anger 
at Arnold's secret amusement, I avoided him that even- 
ing and for several days to come. 

It was on Saturday night, when we were closing the 
store for the week, that quite another subject led me back 
to my resentment in such a way that we had the matter 
out between us ; and as all that we had to say is more or 
less intimately connected with my story I will set it down 
word for word. 

A young woman in a great quilted bonnet of the kind 
that we used to call calash, and a dress that she no doubt 
thought very fetching, came mincing into the store and 
ordered this thing and that in a way that kept me at- 
tending closely to her desires. When she had gone minc- 
ing out again, I turned so impatiently to put the counter 
to rights, that Arnold softly chuckled. 

"Apparently," said he, with a quiet smile, "the lady 
did not impress you quite as she desired, Joe." 

"Impress me!" I snorted, ungallantly imitating her 
mincing manner. "She impressed me as much as any 
of them." 

"You must have patience, Joe. Some day there will 
come a lady ' 

"No, no!" I cried, with the cocksure assertiveness of 
my years. 

"But yes!" 

"Not I ! No, no, Arnold , 'needles and pins, needles 
and pins' 

" 'When a man marries his trouble begins'? ' Sad- 
ness now shadowed Arnold's expressive face. "No! 
Proverbs sometimes are pernicious." 

"You are laughing at me !" 

I had detected, through the veil of melancholy that 



30 THE GREAT QUEST 

seemed to have fallen over him, a faint ray of something 
akin to humor. 

"I am not laughing at you, Joe." His voice was sad. 
"You will marry some day marry and settle down. 
It is good to do so. I ' 

There was something in his stopping that made me 
look at him in wonder. Immediately he was himself 
again, calm, wise, taciturn ; but in spite of my youth I 
instinctively felt that only by suffering could a man win 
his way to such kindly, quiet dignity. 

I had said that I would not marry: no wonder, I have 
since thought, that Arnold looked at me with that gentle 
humor. Never dreaming that in only a few short months 
a new name and a new face were to fill my mind and my 
heart with a world of new anxieties and sorrows and joys, 
never dreaming of the strange and distant adventures 
through which Arnold and I were to pass, if a fortune- 
teller had foretold the story, I should have laughed it to 
scorn, I was only angry at his amused smile. Perhaps 
I had expected him to argue with me, to try to correct 
my notions. In any case, when he so kindly and yet 
keenly appraised at its true worth my boyish pose, I was 
sobered for a moment by the sadness that he himself had 
revealed ; then I all but flew into a temper. 

"Oh, very well ! Go on and laugh at me. You were 
laughing at me the other night when I was fencing, too. 
I saw you. I'd like to see you do better yourself. Go 
on and laugh, you who are so wise." 

Arnold's smile vanished. "I am not laughing at you, 
Joe. Nor was I laughing at you then." 

"You were not laughing at me?" 

"No." 

"At whom, then, were 3 r ou laughing?' 

To this Arnold did not reply. 



SWORDS AND SHIPS 31 

The fencing lessons, begun so auspiciously that first 
evening, became a regular event. Every night we gath- 
ered on the green and fenced together until twilight had 
all but settled into dark. Little by little we learned such 
tricks of attack and defense as our master could teach 
us, until we, too, could stamp and leap, and parry with 
whistling circles of the blade. And as we did so, we 
young fellows of the village came more and more to look 
upon Cornelius Gleazen almost as one of us. 

Though his coming had aroused suspicion, though for 
many weeks there were few who would say a good word 
for him, as the summer wore away, he established him- 
self so firmly in the life of his native town that people 
began to forget, as far as anyone could see, that he had 
ever had occasion to leave it in great haste. 

If he praised my fencing and gave me more time than 
the others, I thought it no more than my due - - was I 
not a young man of great prospects? If Uncle Seth had 
at first regarded him with suspicion, Uncle Seth, too, had 
quite returned now to his old abrupt, masterful way and 
was again as sharp and quick of tongue as ever, even when 
Neil Gleazen was sitting in Uncle Seth's own chair and at 
his own desk. Perhaps, had we been keener, we should 
have suspected that something was wrong, simply because 
no one expect a few stupid persons like the blacksmith 
had a word to say against Neil Gleazen. You would at 
least have expected his old cronies to resent his leaving 
them for more respectable company. But not even from 
them did there come a whisper of suspicion or complaint. 

Why should not a man come home to his native place 
to enjoy the prosperity of his later years? we argued. It 
was the most natural thing in the world ; and when Cor- 
nelius Gleazen talked of foreign wars and the state of the 
country and the deaths of Mr. Adams and Mr. Jefferson, 



32 THE GREAT QUEST 

and of the duel between Mr. Clay and Mr. Randolph, the 
most intelligent of us listened with respect, and found oc- 
casion in his shrewd observations and trenchant comment 
to rejoice that Topham had so able a son to return to her 
in the full power of his maturity. 

There was even talk of sending him to Congress, and 
that it was not idle gossip I know because three politicians 
from Boston came to town and conferred with our select- 
men and Judge Bordman over their wine at the inn for a 
long evening ; and Peter Nuttles, whose sister waited on 
them, spread the story to the ends of the county. 

Late one night, when Uncle Seth and I were about to 
set out for home, leaving Arnold and Sim to lock up the 
store, we parted with Gleazen on the porch, he stalking 
off to the right hi the moonlight and swinging his cane as 
he went, we turning our backs on the village and the 
bright windows of the tavern, and stepping smartly toward 
our own dark house, in which the one lighted lamp shone 
from the window of the room that Mrs. Jameson, our 
housekeeper, occupied. 

" He's a man of judgment," Uncle Seth said, as if med- 
itating aloud, "rare judgment and a wonderful knowledge 
of the world." 

He seemed to expect no reply, and I made none. 

"He was venturesome to rashness as a boy," Uncle 
Seth presently continued. "All that seems to have 
changed now." 

We walked along through the dust. The weeds beside 
the road and the branches of the trees and shrubs were 
damp with dew. 

"As a boy," Uncle Seth said at last, "I should never 
have thought of going to Neil Gleazen for judgment - 
aye, or for knowledge." And when we stood on the porch 
in the moonlight and looked back at the village, where all 



SWORDS AND SHIPS 33 

the houses were dark now except for a lamp here and there 
that continued to burn far into the night, he added, 
"How would you like to leave all this, Joe, and wrestle a 
fall with fortune for big stakes - - aye, for rich stakes, 
with everything in our favor to win?' 

At something in his voice I turned on my heel, my 
heart leaping, and stared hard at him. 

As if he suddenly realized that he had been saying things 
he ought not to say, he gave himself a quick shake, and 
woke from his meditations with a start. "We must away 
to bed," he cried sharply. "It's close on midnight." 

Here was a matter for speculation. For an hour that 
afternoon and for another hour that evening Uncle Seth 
and Neil Gleazen had sat behind my uncle's desk, with 
their chairs drawn close together and the beaver laid on 
the cracker-box, and had scribbled endless columns of fig- 
ures and mysterious notes on sheet after sheet of foolscap. 
What, I wondered, did it mean ? 

At noon next day, as I was waiting on customers in the 
front of the store, I saw a rider with full saddlebags pass, 
on a great black horse, and shortly afterwards I heard one 
of the customers remark that the horse was standing at the 
inn. Glancing out of the window, I saw that the rider had 
dismounted and was talking with Cornelius Gleazen; 
though the distance was considerable, Gleazen's bearing 
and the forward tilt of his beaver were unmistakable. 
When next I passed the window, I saw that Gleazen was 
posting down the road toward the store, with his beaver 
tipped even farther over his right eye, his cane swinging, 
and a bundle under his arm. 

As I bowed the customers out, Gleazen entered the 
store, brushing past me with a nod, and loudly called, 
"SethUpham! Seth Upham! Where are you?" 

"Here I am. What's wanted?" my uncle testily re- 



34 THE GREAT QUEST 

torted, as he emerged from a bin into which he had thrust 
his head and shoulders in his efforts to fill a peck measure. 

"Come, come," cried Gleazen in his great, gruff voice. 
"Here's news!" 

"News," returned my uncle, sharply; "news is no rea- 
son to scare a man out of a year's growth." 

Neil Gleazen laughed loudly and gave my uncle a re- 
sounding slap on the back that made him wTithe. "News, 
Seth, news is the key to fortune. Come, man, come, lay 
by your pettifogging. Here's papers just in by the post. 
You ain't going to let 'em lie no more than I am." 

To my amazement, I could never get used to it, 
my uncle's resentment seemed to go like mist before the 
sun, and he said not a word against the boisterous rough- 
ness of the friend of his youth, although I almost believe 
that, if anyone else had dared to treat him so, he would 
have grained the man with a hayfork. Instead, he wiped 
his hands on his coarse apron and followed Gleazen to 
the desk, where they sat down in the two chairs that now 
were always behind it. 

For a time they talked in voices so low that I heard 
nothing of their conversation ; but after a while, as they 
became more and more absorbed in their business, their 
voices rose, and I perceived that Gleazen was reading 
aloud from the papers some advertisements in which he 
seemed especially interested. 

"Here's this," he would cry. " Listen to this. If this 
ain't a good one, I'll miss my guess. ' Executor's sale, 
Ship Congress : on Saturday the 15th, at twelve o'clock, 
at the wharf of the late William Gray, Lynn Street, will 
be sold at public auction the ship Congress, built at 
Mattapoisett near New Bedford hi the year 1823 and de- 
signed for the whale fishery. Measures 349 tons, is cop- 
per fastened and was copper sheathed over felt in London 



SWORDS AND SHIPS 35 

on the first voyage, and is in every respect a first-rate ves- 
sel. She has two suits of sails, chain and hemp cables, 
and is well found in the usual appurtenances. By order 
of the executors of the late William Gray, Whitewell, 
Bond and Company, Auctioneers.' There, Seth, there's 
a vessel for you, I'll warrant you." 

My uncle murmured something that I could not hear ; 
then Gleazen tipped his beaver back on his head - - for 
once he had neglected to set it on the cracker-box - - and 
hoarsely laughed. "Well, I'll be shot!" he roared. 
"How's a man to better himself, if he's so confounded 
cautious ? Well, then, how 's this : ' Marshal's Sale. United 
States of America, District of Massachusetts, Boston, 
August 31, 1826. Pursuant to a warrant from the Hon- 
orable John Davis, Judge of the District Court for the 
District aforesaid, I hereby give public notice that I shall 
sell at public auction on Wednesday the 8th day of Sep- 
tember, at 12 o'clock noon, at Long Wharf, the schooner 
Caroline and Clara, libelled for wages by William Shipley, 
and the money arising from the sale to be paid into court. 
Samuel D. Hains, Marshal.' That'll come cheap, if 
cheap you '11 have. But mark what I tell you, Seth, that 
what comes cheap, goes cheap. There's no good in it. 
It ain't as if you hadn't the money. The plan's mine, 
and I tell you, it's a good one, with three merry men 
waiting for us over yonder. Half 's for you, a whole half, 
mind you ; and half 's to be divided amongst the rest of 
us. It don't pay to try to do things cheap. What with 
gear carried away and goods damaged, it don't pay." 

Uncle Seth was marking lines on the margin of the news- 
paper before them. 

"I wonder," he began, "how much- 

Then they talked in undertones, and I heard nothing 
more. 



CHAPTER V 

A MYSTERIOUS PROJECT 

FOR three days I watched with growing amazement the 
strange behavior of my uncle. Now he would sit hunched 
up over his desk and search through a great pile of docu- 
ments from the safe ; now he would toss the papers into his 
strong box, lock it, and return it to its place hi the vault, 
and pace the floor in a revery so deep that you could speak 
in his very ear without getting a reply. At one minute he 
would be as cross as a devil's imp, and turn on you in fury 
if you wished to do him a favor; at the next he would 
fairly laugh aloud with good humor. 

The only man at whom he never flew out in a rage was 
Cornelius Gleazen, and why this should be so, I could only 
guess. You may be sure that I, and others, tried hard to 
fathom the secret, when the two of them were sitting at my 
uncle's desk over a huge mass of papers, as they were for 
hours at a time. 

On the noon of the third day they settled themselves 
together at the desk and talked interminably in under- 
tones. Now Uncle Seth would bend over his papers ; now 
he would look off across the road and the meadows to the 
woods beyond. Now he would put questions ; now he 
would sit silent. An hour passed, and another, and another. 
At four o'clock they were still there, still talking in under- 
tones. At five o'clock their heads were closer together than 
ever. Now Neil Gleazen was tapping on the top of his 
beaver. He had a strange look, which I did not under- 
stand, and between his eyes and the flashing of his diamond 
as his finger tapped the hat, he charmed me as if he were a 



A MYSTERIOUS PROJECT 37 

snake. Even Sim Muzzy was watching them curiously, 
and on Arnold Lament's fine, sober face there was an ex- 
pression of mingled wonder and distrust. 

Customers came, and we waited on them; and when 
they had gone, the two were still there. The clocks were 
striking six when I faced about, hearing their chairs move, 
and saw them shaking hands and smiling. Then Cornelius 
Gleazen went away, and my uncle, carefully locking up his 
papers, went out, too. 

Supper was late that night, for I waited until Uncle Seth 
came in ; but he made no excuse for his long absence and 
late return. He ate rapidly and in silence, as if he were not 
thinking of his food, and he took no wine until he had 
pushed his plate away. Then he poured himself a glass 
from the decanter, tasted it, and said, "I am to be away 
to-morrow, Joe." 

"Yes, sir," said I. 

"I may be back to-morrow night and I may not. As 
to that, I can't say. But I wish, come afternoon, you 'd 
go to Abe Guptil's for me. I 've an errand there I want you 
to do." 

I waited in silence. 

"I hold a mortgage of two thousand dollars on his 
place," he presently went on. "I 've let it run, out of good- 
nature. Good-nature don't pay. Well, I'm going to need 
the money. Give him a month to pay up. If he can't, tell 
him I '11 sell him out." 

"You'll what?" I cried, not believing that I heard him 
aright. 

"I'll sell him out. Pringle has been wanting the place 
and he'll give at least two thousand." 

"Now, Uncle Seth, Abraham Guptil 's been a long time 
sick. His best horse broke a leg a while back and he had to 
shoot it, and while he was sick his crops failed. He can't 



38 THE GREAT QUEST 

pay you now. Give him another year. He 's good for the 
money and he pays his interest on the day it's due." 

Uncle Seth frowned. "I've been too good-natured," he 
said sharply. "I need the money myself. I shall sell him 
out." 

"But--" 

"Well?" 

I stopped short. After all, I could not save Abe Guptil 
- 1 knew Uncle Seth too well for that. And it might be 
easier for Abe if I broke the news than if, say, Uncle Seth 
did. 

"Very well," I replied after a moment's thought. "I 
will go." 

Uncle Seth, appeased by my compliance, gave a short 
grunt, curtly bade me good-night and stumped off to bed. 
But I, wondering what was afoot, sat a long time at table 
while the candles burned lower and lower. 

Next morning, clad in his Sunday best, Uncle Seth 
waited in front of the store, with his horses harnessed and 
ready, until the tall familiar figure, with cane, cigar, and 
beaver hat, came marching grandly down from the inn. 
Then the two got into the carriage and drove away. 

Some hours later, leaving Arnold Lament in charge of 
the store, I set off in turn, but humbly and on foot, toward 
the white house by the distant sea where poor Abraham 
Guptil lived ; and you can be sure that it made me sick at 
heart to think of my errand. 

From the pine land and meadows of Topham, the road 
emerged on the border of a salt marsh, along which I 
tramped for an hour or two ; then, passing now through 
scrubby timber, now between barren farms, it led up on 
higher ground, which a few miles farther on fell away to 
tawny rocks and yellow sand and the sea, which came rol- 
ling in on the beach in long, white hissing waves. Islands 



A MYSTERIOUS PROJECT 39 

in the offing seemed to give promise of other, far-distant 
lands; and the sun was so bright and the water so blue 
that I thought to myself how much I would give to go 
a-sailing with Uncle Seth in search of adventure. 

Late in the afternoon I saw ahead of me, beside the 
road, the small white house, miles aw r ay from any other, 
where Abraham Guptil lived. A dog came barking out at 
me, and a little boy came to call back the dog ; then a 
woman appeared in the door and told me I was welcome. 
Abe, it seemed, was away working for a neighbor, but he 
would be back soon, for supper-time was near. If I would 
stay with them for the meal, she said, they should be glad 
and honored. 

So I sat down on the doorstone and made friends with 
the boy and the dog, and talked away about little things 
that interested the boy, until we saw Abraham Guptil 
coming home across the fields with the sun at his back. 

He shook hands warmly, but his face was anxious, and 
when after supper we went out doors and I told him as 
kindly as I could the errand on which my uncle had sent 
me, he shook his head. 

" I feared it," said he. "It's rumored round the coun- 
try that Seth Upham's collecting money wherever he 
can. Without this, I've been in desperate straits, and 



now " 



He spread his hands hopelessly and leaned against the 
fence. His eyes wandered over the acres on which he was 
raising crops by sheer strength and determination. It was 
a poor, stony farm, yet the man had claimed it from the 
wilderness and, what with fishing and odd jobs, had been 
making a success of life until one misfortune after another 
had fairly overwhelmed him. 

"It must go," he said at last. 

As best I could, I was taking leave of him for the long 



40 THE GREAT QUEST 

tramp home, when he suddenly roused himself and cried, 
"But stay ! See ! The storm is hard upon us. You 
must not go back until to-morrow." 

Heavy clouds were banking in the west, and already we 
could hear the rumble of thunder. 

It troubled me to accept the hospitality of the Guptils 
when I had come on such an errand ; but the kindly souls 
would hear of no denial, so I joined Abe in the chores with 
such good-will, that we had milked, and fed the stock, and 
closed the barns for the night before the first drops fell. 

Meanwhile much had gone forward indoors, and when 
we returned to the house I was shown to a great bed made 
up with clean linen fragrant of lavender. Darkness had 
scarcely fallen, but I was so weary that I undressed and 
threw myself on the bed and went quietly to sleep while 
the storm came raging down the coast. 

As one so often does in a strange place, I woke uncom- 
monly early. Dawn had no more than touched the east- 
ern horizon, but I got out of bed and, hearing someone 
stirring, went to the window. A door closed very gently, 
then a man came round the corner of the house and struck 
off across the fields. It was Abraham Guptil. What could 
he be doing abroad at that hour? Going to the door of 
my room, which led into the kitchen, I softly opened it, 
then stopped in amazement. Someone was asleep on the 
kitchen floor. I looked closer and saw that it w r as a woman 
with a child ; then I turned back and closed the door again. 

Rather than send me away, even though I brought a 
message that meant the loss of their home, those good 
people had given me the one bed in the house, and them- 
selves, man, w T oman, and child, had slept on hard boards, 
with only a blanket under them. 

Since I could not leave my room without their knowing 
that I had discovered their secret, I sat down by the win- 



A MYSTERIOUS PROJECT 41 

dow and watched the dawn come across the sea upon a 
world that was clean and cool after the shower of the night. 
For an hour, as the light grew stronger, I watched the slow 
waves that came rolling in and poured upon the long rocks 
in cascades of silver ; and still the time wore on, and still 
Abe remained away. Another hour had nearly gone when 
I saw him coming in the distance along the shore, and 
heard his wife stirring outside. 

Now someone knocked at my door. 

I replied with a prompt "Good-morning," and presently 
went into the kitchen, where the three greeted me warmly. 
All signs of their sleeping on the kitchen floor had van- 
ished. 

"I don't know what I shall do, Joe," said Abraham 
Guptil when I was taking leave of him an hour later. 
"This place is all I have." 

I made up my mind there and then that neither Abra- 
ham Guptil nor his wife and child should suffer want. 

"I'll see to that," I replied. "There'll be something 
for you to do and some place for you to go." 

Then, with no idea how I should fulfil my promise, I 
shook his hand and left him. 

When at last I got back to the store, Arnold Lament 
was there alone. My uncle had not returned, and Sim 
Muzzy had gone fishing. It was an uncommonly hot day, 
and since there were few customers, we sat and talked of 
one thing and another. 

When I saw that Arnold was looking closely at the foils, 
which stood in a corner, an idea came to me. Cornelius 
Gleazen had praised my swordsmanship to the skies, and, 
indeed, I was truly becoming a match for him. Twice I 
had actually taken a bout from him, with a great swishing 
and clattering of blades and stamping of feet, and now, 
although he continued to give me lessons, he no longer 



42 THE GREAT QUEST 

would meet me in an assault. As for the other young fel- 
lows, I had far and away outstripped them. 

"Would you like to try the foils once, Arnold?' I 
asked. "I'll give you a lesson if you say so." 

For a moment I thought there was a twinkle in the 
depths of his eyes ; but when I looked again they were 
sober and innocent. 

"Why, yes," he said. 

Something in the way he tested the foils made me a bit 
uneasy, in spite of my confidence, but I shrugged it off. 

"You have learned well by watching," I said, as we 
came on guard. 

"I have tried it before," said he. 

"Then," said I, "I will lunge and you shall see if you 
can parry me." 

"Very well." 

After a few perfunctory passes, during which I advanced 
and retreated in a way that I flattered myself was excep- 
tionally clever, and after a quick feint in low line, I dis- 
engaged, deceived a counter-parry by doubling, and con- 
fidently lunged. To my amazement my foil rested against 
his blade hardly out of line with his body - - so slightly out 
of line that I honestly believed the attack had miscarried 
by my own clumsiness. Certainly I never had seen so nice 
a parry. That I escaped a riposte, I attributed to my deft 
recovery and the constant pressure of my blade on his ; 
but even then I had an uncomfortable suspicion that be- 
hind the veil of his black mask Arnold was smiling, and I 
was really dazed by the failure of an attack that seemed 
to me so well planned and executed. 

Then, suddenly, easily, lightly, Arnold Lament's blade 
wove its way through my guard. His arms, his legs, his 
body moved with a lithe precision such as I had never 
dreamed of; my own foil, circling desperately, failed to 



A MYSTERIOUS PROJECT 43 

find his, and his button rested for a moment against my 
right breast so surely and so competently that, in the face 
of his skill, I simply dropped my guard and stood in frank 
wonder and admiration. 

Even then I was vaguely aware that I could not fully 
appreciate it. Though I had thought myself an accom- 
plished swordsman, the man's dexterity, which had re- 
vealed me as a clumsy blunderer, was so amazingly su- 
perior to anything I had ever seen, that I simply could not 
realize to the full how remarkable it was. 

I whipped off my mask and cried, "You, you are a 
fencer." 

He smiled. "Are you surprised? A man does not tell 
all he knows." 

As I looked him in the face, I wondered at him. Uncle 
Seth had come to rely upon him implicitly for far more 
than you can get from any ordinary clerk. Yet we really 
knew nothing at all about him. "A man does not tell all 
he knows" He had held his tongue without a slip for all 
those years. 

I saw him now in a new light. His face was keen, but 
more than keen. There was real wisdom in it. The quiet, 
confident dignity with which he always bore himself 
seemed suddenly to assume a new, deeper, more mysteri- 
ous significance. Whatever the man might be, it was cer- 
tain that he was no mere shopkeeper's clerk. 

That afternoon Uncle Seth and Gleazen, the one 
strangely elated, the other more pompous and grand than 
ever, returned in the carriage. Of then- errand, for the 
tune being they said nothing. 

Uncle Seth merely asked about Abe Gup til's note ; and, 
when I answered him, impatiently grunted. 

Poor Abe, I thought, and wondered what had come 
over my uncle. 



44 THE GREAT QUEST 

In the evening, as we were finishing supper, Uncle 
Seth leaned back with a broad smile. "Joe, my lad," he 
said, "our fortunes are making. Great days are ahead. 
I can buy and sell the town of Topham now, but before 
we are through, Joe, I - - or you with the money I shall 
leave you - - can buy and sell the city of Boston - - aye, or 
the Commonwealth of Massachusetts. There are great 
days ahead, Joe." 

"But what," I asked, with fear at my heart, "but what 
is this great venture ?" 

Uncle Seth looked at me with a smile that expressed 
whatever power of affection was left in his hard old shell 
of a heart, a meagre affection, yet, as far as it went, all 
centred upon me, and revealed a great conceit of his 
own wisdom. 

"Joe," he said, leaning forward on his elbows till his 
face, on which the light threw every testy wrinkle into 
sharp relief, was midway between the two candles at the 
end of the table, "Joe, I've bought a ship and we're all 
going to Africa." 

For a moment his voice expressed confidence ; for a mo- 
ment his affection for me triumphed over his native sharp- 
ness. 

"You're all I've got, Joey," he cried, "You're all that's 
left to the old man, and I'm going to do well by you. 
Whatever I have is yours, Joey ; it 's all coming to you, 
every cent and every dollar. Here, you must be want- 
ing a bit of money to spend, here ! " He thrust his hand 
into his pocket and flung half a dozen gold pieces down on 
the dark, well-oiled mahogany where they rang and rolled 
and shone dully in the candle-light. "I swear, Joe} r , I 
think a lot of you." 

I suppose that not five people in all Topham had ever 
seen Uncle Seth in such a mood. I am sure that, if they 



A MYSTERIOUS PROJECT 45 

had, the town could never have thought of him as only a 
cold, exacting man. But now a fear apparently over- 
whelmed him lest by so speaking out through his reticence 
he had committed some unforgivable offense - - lest he 
had told too much. He seemed suddenly to snap back 
into his hard, cynical shell. "But of that, no more," he 
said sharply. "Not a word 's to be said, you understand. 
Not a word to any one." 

When I went back to the store that evening, I sat on the 
porch in the darkness and thought of Uncle Seth as I had 
seen him across the table, his face thrust forward between 
the candles, his elbows planted on the white linen, with the 
dim, restful walls of the room behind him, with the faces 
of my father and my mother looking down upon us from 
the gilt frames on the wall. I knew him too well to ask 
questions, even though, as I sat on the store porch, he was 
sitting just behind me inside the open window. 

What, I wondered, almost in despair, could we, of all 
people, do with a ship and a voyage to Africa? Had I 
not seen Cornelius Gleazen play upon my uncle's fear and 
vanity and credulity ? I had no doubt whatever that the 
same Neil Gleazen, who had been run out of town thirty 
years before, was at the bottom of whatever mad voyage 
my uncle was going to send his ship upon. 

Then I thought of good old Abraham Guptil, so soon to 
be turned out of house and home, and of Arnold Lament, 
who saw and knew and understood so much, yet said so 
little. And again I thought of Cornelius Gleazen ; and 
when I was thinking of him, a strange thing came to 
pass. 

Down in the village a dog barked fiercely, then another 
nearer the store, then another ; then I saw coming up the 
road a figure that I could not mistake. The man with that 
tall hat, that flowing coat, that nonchalant air, which even 



46 THE GREAT QUEST 

the faint light of the stars revealed, could be no other than 
Cornelius Gleazen himself. 

In the store behind me I heard the low drone of con- 
versation from the men gathered round the stove, the 
click of a chessman set firmly on the board, the voice of 
Arnold Lament - - so clear, so precise, and yet so defi- 
nitely and indescribably foreign -- saying, "Check!" 
Through the small panes of glass I saw my uncle frowning 
over his ledgers. Now he noted some figure on the fools- 
cap at his right, now he appeared to count on his fingers. 

I turned again to watch Cornelius Gleazen. Of course 
he could not know that anyone was sitting on the porch 
in the darkness. When he passed the store, he looked over 
at it with a turn of his head and a twist of his shoulders. 
His gesture gave me an impression of scorn and triumph 
so strong that I hardly restrained myself from retorting 
loudly and angrily. Then I bit my lip and watched him 
go by and disappear. 

"Who," I wondered, "who and what really is Cornelius 
Gleazen?" 




II 

HANDS ACROSS THE SEA 



CHAPTER VI 
GOOD-BYE TO OLD HAUNTS AND FACES 

THAT some extraordinary thing was afoot next day, 
every soul who worked in our store, or who entered it on 
business, vaguely felt. To me, who had gained a hint of 
what was going forward, - - baffling and tantalizing, yet a 
hint for all that, and to Arnold Lament, who, I was 
convinced as I saw him watch my uncle's nervous move- 
ments, although he had no such plain hint to go upon, had 
by his keen, silent observation unearthed even more than 
I, the sense of an impending great event was far from 
vague. I felt as sure as of my own name that before night- 
fall something would happen to uproot me from my native 
town, whose white houses and green trees and hedges, 
kindly people and familiar associations, lovely scenes and 
quiet, homely life I so deeply loved. 

The strange light in Cornelius Gleazen's eyes, as he 
watched us hard at work taking an inventory of stock, 
confirmed me in the presentiment. My uncle's harassed, 
nervous manner as he drove us on with our various duties, 
Sim Muzzy's garrulous bewilderment, and Arnold La- 
ment's keen, silent appraisal, added each its little to the 
sum of my convictions. 

The warmer the day grew, the harder we worked. Uncle 
Seth flew about like a madman, picking us up on this thing 
and that, and urging one to greater haste, another to 
greater care. Throwing off his coat, he pitched in with his 
own hands, and performed such prodigies of labor that it 
seemed as if our force were doubled by the addition of 
himself alone. And all the time Neil Gleazen sat and 
smiled and tapped his beaver. 



50 THE GREAT QUEST 

He was so cool, so impudent about it, that I longed to 
turn on him and vent my spleen ; but to Uncle Seth it ap- 
parently seemed entirely suitable that Gleazen should idle 
while others worked. 

Of the true meaning of all this haste and turmoil I had 
no further inkling until in the early afternoon Gleazen 
called loudly, 

"He's here, prompt to the minute." 

Then Uncle Seth drew a long breath, mopped the sweat 
from his face and cried, 

"I'm ready for him, thank heaven! The boys can be 
finishing up what little's left." 

I looked, and saw a gentleman, just alighted from his 
chaise, tying a handsome black horse to the hitching-post 
before the door. 

Turning his back upon us all, Uncle Seth rushed to the 
door, his hands extended, and cried, "Welcome, sir I 
Since cock-crow this morning we have been hard at work 
upon the inventory, and it 's this minute done - - at least, 
all but adding a few columns. Sim, another chair by my 
desk. Quick ! Mr. Gleazen, I wish to present you to Mr. 
Brown. Come in, sir, come in." 

The three shook hands, and all sat down together and 
talked for some time ; then, at the stranger's remark, 
"Now for figures. There's nothing like figures to tell a 
story, Mr. Upham. Eh, Mr. Gleazen? We can run over 
those columns you spoke of, here and now," - they be- 
stirred themselves. 

"You're right, sir," Uncle Seth cried: and then he 
sharply called, "Arnold, bring me those lists you've just 
finished. That's right; is that all? Well, then you take 
the other boys and return those boxes in the back room to 
their shelves. That'll occupy you all of an hour." 

No longer able to pick up an occasional sentence of their 



GOOD-BYE TO OLD HAUNTS AND FACES 51 

talk, we glumly retired out of earshot and were more than 
ever irritated when Gleazen, his cigar between his teeth, 
stamped up to the door between the front room and the 
back and firmly closed it. 

"Why should they wish so much to be alone?" Arnold 
asked. 

I ventured no reply; but Sim Muzzy, as if personally 
affronted, burst hotly forth : - 

" You'd think Seth Upham would know enough to ask 
the advice of a man who 's been working for him ever since 
Neil Gleazen ran away from home, now would n't you ? 
Here I've toiled day in and out and done good work for 
him and learned the business, for all the many times he's 
said he never saw a thicker head, until there ain't a bet- 
ter hand at candling eggs, not this side of Boston, than I 
be. And does he ask my advice when he's got something 
up his sleeve? No, he don't! And yet I'll leave it to 
Arnold, here, if my nose ain't keener to scent sour milk 
than any nose in Topham - - yes, sir." 

The idea of Sim Muzzy's advice on any matter of 
greater importance than the condition of an egg or the 
sweetness of milk, in determining which, to do him justice, 
he was entirely competent, struck me as so funny that I 
almost sniggered. Nor could I have restrained myself, 
even so, when I perceived Arnold looking at me solemnly 
and as if reproachfully, had not Uncle Seth just then 
opened the door and called, "Sim, there's a lady here 
wants some calico and spices. Come and wait on her." 

When, fifteen minutes later, Sun returned, closing the 
door smartly behind him, Arnold asked with a droll quirk, 
which I alone perceived, "Well, my friend, what did you 
gather during your stay in yonder?" 

"Gather? Gather?" Sun spluttered. "I gathered noth- 
ing. There was talk of dollars and cents and pounds and 



52 THE GREAT QUEST 

pence, and stocks and oils, and ships and horses, and 
though I listened till my head swam, all I could make out 
was when Neil Gleazen told me to shut the door behind 
my back. If they was to ask my advice, I'd tell 'em to 
talk sense, that's what I'd do." 

"Ah, Sim," said Arnold, "if only they were to ask thy 
advice, what advice thee would give them !" 

"Now you're talking like a Quaker," Sim replied hotly. 
"Why do Quakers talk that way, I'd like to know. Thee- 
ing and thou-ing till it is enough to fuddle a sober man's 
wits. I declare they are almost as bad as people in foreign 
parts who, I've heard tell, have such a queer way of talk- 
ing that an honest man can't at all understand what 
they're saying until he's got used to it." 

"Such, indeed, is the way of the inconsiderate world, 
Sim," Arnold dryly replied. 

Then the three of us put our shoulders to a hogshead, 
and in the mighty effort of lifting it to the bulkhead sill 
ceased to talk. 

As we finally raised it and shoved it into the yard, Sim 
stepped farther out than Arnold and I, and looking toward 
the street, whispered, "He's going." 

I sprang over beside him and saw that the visitor, hav- 
ing already unhitched his horse, was shaking hands with 
Uncle Seth. Stepping into the chaise, he then drove off. 

For a space of time so long that the man must have 
come to the bend in the road, Uncle Seth and Cornelius 
Gleazen watched him as he went ; then, to puzzle us still 
further, smiling broadly, they shook hands, and turn- 
ing about, still entirely unaware that we were watching 
them, walked with oddly pleased expressions back into the 
store. 

My uncle's face expressed such confidence and friendli- 
ness as even I had seldom seen on it. 



GOOD-BYE TO OLD HAUNTS AND FACES 53 



"Now ain't that queer?" Sim began. "If Seth Upham 
was a little less set in his ways, I 'd - 

With a shrug Arnold Lament broke in upon what 
seemed likely to be a long harangue, and made a comment 
that was much more to the point. "Now," said he, "we 
are going to hear what has happened." 

Surely enough, we thought. No sooner were we back in 
the store, all three of us, than the door opened and in came 
Uncle Seth. 

"Well," said he, brusquely, and yet with a certain 
pleased expression still lingering about his eyes, "I ex- 
pected you to have done more. Hm! Well, work hard. 
We must have things in order come morning." 

Arnold smiled as my uncle promptly returned to the 
front room, but Sim and I were keenly disappointed. 

"How now, you who are so clever?" Sim cried when 
Uncle Seth again had closed the door. " How now, Arnold ? 
We have heard nothing." 

"Why," said Arnold, imperturbably, "not exactly 
'nothing.' We have learned that the man is coming back 
to-morrow." 

"Are you crazy?" Sim responded. "Seth Upham said 
nothing of the kind." 

Arnold only smiled again. "Wait and see," he said. 

So we worked until late at night, putting all once more 
to rights; and in the morning, true to Arnold's prophecy, 
the gentleman with the big black horse, accompanied now 
by a friend, made a second visit in the front room of the 
store. 

This time he talked but briefly with Uncle Seth and 
Neil Gleazen, who had already waited an hour for his 
arrival. As if eager to see our business for himself, he then 
walked through the store, examining every little detail of 
the stock and fixtures, and asked a vast number of ques- 



54 THE GREAT QUEST 

tions, which in themselves showed that he knew what he 
was about and that he was determined to get at the bot- 
tom of our affairs. There was talk of barrels of Alexandria 
superfine flour and hogsheads of Kentucky tobacco ; of 
teas - - Hyson, young Hyson, Hyson skin, Powchong and 
Souchong; of oil, summer and winter; of Isles of Shoals dun 
fish and Holland gin and preserved ginger, and one thing 
and another, until, with answering the questions they 
asked me, I was fairly dizzy. 

Having examined store and stock to his satisfaction, 
he then went with Uncle Seth, to my growing wonder, up 
to our own house ; and from what Sim reported when he 
came back from a trip to spy upon them, they examined 
the house with the same care. In due course they returned 
to the store and sat down at the desk, and then the friend 
who accompanied our first visitor wrote for some time on 
an official-looking document ; Uncle Seth and the strange 
gentleman signed it ; Arnold Lament, whom they sum- 
moned for the purpose, and Cornelius Gleazen witnessed 
it ; and all four drove away together, the gentleman and 
his friend in their chaise and Uncle Seth and Neil Gleazen 
in our own. 

"When Seth Upham returns," said Arnold, "we shall 
be told all." 

And it was so. 

Coming back alone in the late afternoon, Uncle Seth and 
Gleazen left the chaise at the door, and entering, an- 
nounced that we should close the store early that day. 
Gleazen was radiant with good-nature, and there was the 
odor of liquor on his breath. Uncle Seth, on the contrary, 
appeared not to have tasted a drop. He was, if anything, 
a little sharper than ever at one moment, a little more jo- 
vial at the next, excited always, and full of some mysteri- 
ous news that seemed both to delight and to frighten him. 



GOOD-BYE TO OLD HAUNTS AND FACES 55 

Obediently we fastened the shutters and drew the shades 
and made ready for the night. 

" Now, lads," said Uncle Seth, " come in by my desk and 
take chairs. I have news for you." 

Exchanging glances, we did so. Even Sim Muzzy was 
silent now. 

We all sat down together, Uncle Seth and Neil Gleazen 
at the desk, Arnold Lamont and I a little at one side, and 
Sim Muzzy tilting back importantly at a point from which 
he could watch us all. 

At the time I thought what an interesting study in char- 
acter the others made ; but since then I have come to 
think that by my own attitude toward them I revealed 
more of the manner of youth I myself was, than by their 
bearing they revealed of the manner of men they were. 
There was Neil Gleazen, who held his cigar in his left 
hand and, with the finger on which his great diamond 
flashed, knocked each bit of ash on the floor so promptly 
after it formed, that the glowing coal of fire seemed to eat 
into the dark tobacco and leave no residue whatever. I 
was confident that he thought more of me both for my 
good fellowship and for my sound sense than he thought 
of any of the others present - - or in town, for that mat- 
ter ! As for Uncle Seth, who was at once nervous and 
elated, I must confess, although it did not take me long 
to learn enough to be heartily ashamed of it, that I was 
just a little inclined in my own mind to patronize him ; 
for although all my excellent prospects came entirely from 
his shrewd labors, I felt that he was essentially the big 
toad in the small puddle. 

With the others, I smiled at Sim Muzzy. But with re- 
gard to Arnold Lamont I was less confident. There had 
been a world of philosophy in his brief remark that a man 
does not tell all he knows ; and my fencing bout with him 



56 THE GREAT QUEST 

was still too fresh in my mind to permit me actually to 
patronize him. He sat now with his thoughtful eyes in- 
tent on my uncle, and of the five of us he was by long odds 
the most composed. 

Although I have betrayed my vanity in a none too flat- 
tering light, it would be unjust, I truly think, not to add, 
at the risk of seeming to contradict myself, that I was 
instinctively kind-hearted, and that I did not lack for 
courage. 

"I have news for you, boys," Uncle Seth began, with a 
manner at once abrupt and a little pompous, but with a 
warm smile at me. "I hope you'll be glad to hear it, al- 
though it means a radical change in the life we've lived 
together for so many years. First of all, I want to say that 
each of you will be well looked after." 

Uncle Seth paused and glanced at Cornelius Gleazen, 
who nodded as if to encourage him to go on. 

"Yes, you will be well looked after, however it may ap- 
pear at first flush. I '11 see that no faithful man suffers to 
my profit, even though I have sold the store." 

"What's that? You've sold the store?" Sim wildly 
broke in. "If you've - - you've gone and sold the store? 
What --what?" 

"Be still, Sim," Uncle Seth interposed. "Yes, I have 
sold the store. I know that Joe '11 not be surprised to hear 
it ; but even he has had only the vaguest hint of what's 
going forward. The gentleman who was here yesterday 
and to-day, has bought me out, store and house, lock, 
stock, and barrel." 

"The house!" I cried. 

"Yes," said Uncle Seth shortly. 

"But what '11 I do? And Arnold? And Joe?" Sim de- 
manded. "Oh, Seth Upham! Never did I think to see 
this day and hear them words." 



GOOD-BYE TO OLD HAUNTS AND FACES 57 

"I'm coming to that," said Uncle Seth. " There '11 be 
room here for the three of you if you want to stay, and 
there '11 be work in abundance in the store ; but - - ah, 
lads, here 's the chance for you ! - - there '11 be room for 
you with me, if 3"ou wish to come. I have bought a 
ship- 

" A brig," Cornelius Gleazen put in. 

"A brig," said Uncle Seth, accepting the correction. 
" The Adventure, a very tidy little craft, and well named." 

Cornelius Gleazen gave his cigar a harder flick and in a 
reminiscent voice again forced his way into the conversa- 
tion. " Ninety-seven foot on deck, twenty-four foot beam, 
sixteen foot deep, and a good two hundred and fifty ton, 
built of white oak and copper fastened. Baltimore bow 
and beautiful rake. Trim as a gull and fast as a duck. 
Tidy's the word, Seth, tidy." 

Gleazen's fingers were twitching and his eyes were 
strangely alight. 

"Yes, yes," said Uncle Seth, sharply. 

"But that's not all," Gleazen insisted. 

"Well, what of it?" Uncle Seth demanded. "Are you 
going to tell 'em everything?" 

At this Gleazen paused and looked hard at his cigar. 
His fingers, I could see, were twitching more than ever. 

"No," he slowly said, "not everything. Go ahead, 
Seth." 

"If you keep putting in, how can I go ahead." 

"Oh, stow it !" Gleazen suddenly roared. "This is no 
piffling storekeeper's game. Goon!" 

As you can imagine, we were all eyes and ears at this 
brush between the two ; and when Gleazen lost his tem- 
per and burst out so hotly, in spite of my admiration for 
the man, I hoped, and confidently expected, to see Uncle 
Seth come back, hammer and tongs, and give him as good 



58 THE GREAT QUEST 

as he sent. Instead, he suddenly turned white and be- 
came strangely calm, and in a low, subdued voice went on 
to the rest of us : - 

"We shall take on a cargo at Boston and sail for the 
West Indies, where we shall add a few men to the crew 
and thence sail for Africa. I 'm sure the voyage will yield 
a good profit and - 

"0 Seth, O Seth!" cried Gleazen, abruptly. "That is 
no manner of way to talk to the boys. Let me tell 'em !" 

My uncle, at this, drew back in his chair and said with 
great dignity, "Sir, whose money is financing this ven- 
ture?" 

"Money?" Gleazen roared with laughter. "What's 
money without brains? I'll tell 'em? You sit tight." 

We were all but dumbfounded. White of face and blue 
of lip, Seth Upham sat in his chair - - his no longer I - - and 
Gleazen told us. 

He threw his cigar-butt on the floor and stepped on it, 
and drummed on his beaver hat with nimble fingers. 

"It's like this, lads," he said in a voice that implied 
that he was confiding in us: "I've come home here to 
Topham with a fortune, to be sure, and I 've come to end 
my days in the town that gave me birth. But - ' his 
voice now fell almost to a whisper --"I've left a king's 
wealth on the coast of Guinea." 

He paused to see the effect of his words. I could hear 
my uncle breathing hard, but I held my eyes intently on 
Neil Gleazen's face. 

"A fit treasure for an emperor!" he whispered, in such 
a way that the words came almost hissing to our ears. 

Still we sat in silence and stared at him. 

"With three good men to guard it," he went on after 
another pause. "Three tried, true men - - friends of mine, 
every one of them. Suppose I have made my fortune and 



GOOD-BYE TO OLD HAUNTS AND FACES 59 

come home to end my days in comfort ? I 'd as soon have 
a little more, had n't you f And I'd as soon give a hand to 
a hard-working, honest boyhood friend, had n't you f 
Here 's what I done : I said to Seth Upham, who has robbed 
many a church with me " 

At that, I thought my uncle was going to cry out in 
protest or denial ; but his words died in his throat. 

"I said to him, 'Seth, you and me is old friends. Now 
here's this little scheme. I've got plenty myself, so I'll 
gladly share with you. If you'll raise the money for this 
venture, you'll be helping three good men to get their 
little pile out of the hands of heathen savages, and half of 
the profits will be yours.' So he says he'll raise money for 
the venture, and he done so, and he's sold his store and 
his house, and now he can't back down. How about it, 
Seth?" 

My uncle gulped, but made no reply. Gleazen, who up 
to this point had been always deferential and considerate, 
seemed, out of a clear sky, suddenly to have assumed 
absolute control of our united fortunes. 

"Of course it won't do to turn off old friends," he con- 
tinued. "So he made up his mind to give you lads your 
choice of coming with us at handsome pay one third of 
his lay is to be divided amongst those of you that come - 

"No, I never said that," Uncle Seth cried, as if startled 
into speech. 

"You never?" Gleazen returned in seeming amaze- 
ment. "The papers is signed, Seth." 

"But I never said that !" 

Gleazen turned on my uncle, his eyes blazing. "This 
from you ! " he cried with a crackling oath. "After all I 've 
done ! I swear I 'II back out now then where '11 you be? 
What's more, I'll tell what I know/' 

My uncle in a dazed way looked around the place that 



60 THE GREAT QUEST 

up to now had been his own little kingdom and uttered 
some unintelligible murmur. 

"Ah," said Gleazen, "I thought you did." Then, as if 
Uncle Seth had not broken in upon him, as if he had not 
retorted at Uncle Seth, as if his low, even voice had not 
been raised in pitch since he began, he went on, "Or, lads, 
you can stay. What do you say?' 1 

Still we sat and stared at him. 

Sim Muzzy, as usual, was first to speak and last to 
think. "I'll go," he exclaimed eagerly, "I'll go, for one." 

"Good lad," said Gleazen, who, although they were 
nearly of an age, outrageously patronized him. 

With my familiar world torn down about my shoulders, 
and the patrimony that I long had regarded as mine about 
to be imperiled in this strange expedition, it seemed that I 
must choose between a berth in the new vessel and a 
clerkship with no prospects. It was not a difficult choice 
for a youth with a leaning toward adventure, nor was I 
altogether unprepared for it. Then, too, there was some- 
thing in me that would not suffer me lightly to break all 
ties with my mother's only brother. After a moment for 
reflection, I said, "I '11 go, for two." 

Meanwhile, Arnold Lament had been studying us all 
and had seen, I am confident, more than any of us. He 
had taken time to notice to the full the sudden return of all 
Cornelius Gleazen's arrogance and the extraordinary meek- 
ness of Uncle Seth who, without serious affront, had just 
now taken words from Gleazen for which he would once 
have blazed out at him in fury. 

It did not take Arnold Lamont's subtlety to see that 
Gleazen, by some means or other, had got Seth Upham 
under his thumb and was taking keen pleasure in feeling 
him there. Gleazen's attitude toward my uncle had under- 
gone a curious series of changes since the day when, for the 



GOOD-BYE TO OLD HAUNTS AND FACES 61 

first time, I had seen him enter our store : from arrogance 
he had descended to courtesy, even to deference; but from 
deference he had now returned again to arrogance. In 
his attitude on that first day there had been much of the 
cool insolence that he now manifested; but after a few 
days it had seemed to a certain extent to have vanished. 
Rather, the consideration with which he had of late 
treated my uncle had been so great as to make this new 
impudence the more amazing. 

Many things may have influenced Arnold in his decision ; 
but among them, I think, were his gratitude to Uncle Seth, 
who had taken him in and given him a good living, and 
who, we both could see, was likely now to need the utmost 
that a friend could give him ; his friendliness for Sim and 
me, with whom he had worked so* long ; and, which I did 
not at the time suspect, the desire of a keen, able, straight- 
forward man to meet and beat Cornelius Gleazen at his 
own game. 

"I will go with you," he quietly said. 

"Good lads!" Gleazen cried. 

"One thing more," said I. 

" Anything -- anything within reason, aye, or with- 
out." 

"Uncle Seth once spoke to me of selling out Abraham 

Gupta." 

My uncle now bestirred himself and, shaking off the dis- 
comfiture with which he had received Gleazen's earlier 
words, said with something of his usual sharpness, "The 
sheriff has had the papers these three days." 

"Then," I cried, "I beg you, as a favor, let him have a 
berth with us." 

"What's that? Some farmer?" Gleazen demanded. 

"He's bred to the sea," I returned. 

"That puts another face on the matter," said Gleazen. 



62 THE GREAT QUEST 

"Well," said my uncle. "But his lay comes out of the 
part that goes to you, then." 

"But," I responded, "I thought of his signing on at reg- 
ular wages." Then I blushed at my own selfishness and 
hastened to add, "Never mind that. I for one will say 
that he shall share alike with us." 

And the others, knowing his plight, agreed as with a 
single voice. 

"Now, then, my lads," Cornelius Gleazen cried, "a 
word in confidence : to the village and to the world we '11 
say that we are going on a trading voyage. And so we 
are ! All this rest of our talk," he continued slowly and 
impressively, "all this rest of our talk is a secret between 
you four and me and God Almighty." He brought his 
great fist down on the desk with a terrific bang. "If any 
one of you four men - - 1 don't care a tinker's damn 
which one lets this story leak, I'll kill him." 

At the time I did not think that he meant it ; since then 
I have come to think that he did. 



CHAPTER VII 
A WILD NIGHT 

UNLESS you have lived in a little town where every 
man's business is his neighbor's, you cannot imagine the 
furor in the village of Topham when our fellow citizens 
learned that Seth Upham had actually sold his business 
and his house, and was to embark with Cornelius Gleazen 
on a voyage of speculation to the West Indies and Africa. 
The friction with Great Britain that had closed ports in 
the West Indies to American ships added zest to their sur- 
mises; and the unexpected news that that very worthy 
gentleman, Cornelius Gleazen, who had so recently re- 
turned to his old home, was so soon to depart again, sharp- 
ened their regrets. All were united in wishing us good for- 
tune and a safe, speedy return ; all were keenly interested 
in whatever hints of the true character of the voyage we 
let fall, which you can be sure were few and slender. It 
was such an extraordinary affair in the annals of the vil- 
lage, that the more enterprising began to prepare for a 
grand farewell, which should express their feelings in a 
suitable way and should do honor both to their respected 
fellow townsman, Seth Upham, and to their distinguished 
resident, Cornelius Gleazen. 

There was to be a parade, with a band from Boston at 
its head, a great dinner at the town hall, to which with 
uncommon generosity they invited even the doubting 
blacksmith, and a splendid farewell ceremony, with 
speeches by the minister and the doctor, and with pres- 
entations to all who were to leave town. It was to mark 
an epoch in the history of Topham. Nothing like it had 



64 THE GREAT QUEST 

ever taken place in all the country round. And as we 
were to go to Boston in the near future, the man who 
had bought out Uncle Seth was to take over the house and 
store almost at once, they set the date for the first Sat- 
urday in September. 

Because I, in a way, was to be one of the guests of the 
occasion, I heard little of the plans directly, for they were 
supposed to be secret, in order to surprise us by their splen- 
dor. But a less curious lad than I could not have helped 
noticing the long benches carried past the store and the 
platform that was building on the green. 

The formal farewell, as I have said, was to take place 
on the first Saturday in September, and the following 
Wednesday we five were to leave town. But meanwhile, 
in order to have everything ready for our departure, and 
because we needed another pah* of hands to help in the 
work during the last days at the store, I went on Friday to 
get Abraham Guptil to join us. 

He had been so pleased at the chance to ship for a voy- 
age, thus to recover a little of the goods and gear that mis- 
fortune had swept away from him almost to the last stick 
and penny, that I was more than glad I had given him the 
chance. Well satisfied, accordingly, with myself and the 
world, I turned my uncle's team toward the home of Abe's 
father-in-law, w r here Mrs. Guptil and the boy were to stay 
until Abe should return from the voyage; and when I 
passed the green, where the great platform was almost 
finished, I thought with pleasure of what an Important 
part I was to play in the ceremonies next day. 

It was a long ride to the home of Abraham Guptil's 
father-in-law, and the way led through the pines and 
marshes beside the sea, and up hill and down valley over 
a winding road inland. The goldenrod beside the stone 
walls along the road was a bright yellow, and the blue 



A WILD NIGHT 65 

frost flowers were beginning to blossom. In the air, which 
was as clear as on a winter night, was the pleasant, al- 
most indescribable tang of autumn, in which are blended 
so mysteriously the mellow odors of stubble fields and 
fallen leaves, and fruit that is ready for the market; it sug- 
gested bright foliage and mellow sunsets, and blue smoke 
curling up from chimneys, and lighted windows in the 
early dusk. 

On the outward journey, but partly occupied by driv- 
ing the well-broken team, I thought of how Neil Gleazen, 
before my very eyes, had at first frightened Uncle Seth, 
and had then cajoled him, and, finally, had completely 
won him over. I had never put it in so many words be- 
fore, that Gleazen had got my uncle into such a state that 
he could do what he wished with him ; but to me it was 
plain enough, and I suspected that Arnold Lament saw it, 
too. Although I had watched Gleazen from the moment 
when he first began to accomplish the purpose toward 
which he had been plotting, I could not understand what 
power he held over Uncle Seth that had so changed my 
uncle's whole character. Then I fell to thinking of that 
remark, twice repeated, about robbing churches, and med- 
itated on it while the horses quietly jogged along. Never, 
I thought, should the people of the town learn of my sus- 
picions ; they concerned a family matter, and I would keep 
them discreetly to myself. 

It was touching to see Abraham Guptil bid farewell to 
his wife and son. Their grief was so unaffected that it al- 
most set me sniffling, and I feared that poor Abe would 
make a dreary addition to our little band ; but when we 
had got out of sight of the house, he began to pick up, and 
after wiping his eyes and blowing his nose, he surprised 
me by becoming, all things considered, quite lively. 

"Now," said he, "you can tell me all about this voyage 



66 THE GREAT QUEST 

for which I 've shipped. It seems queer for a man to sign 
the articles when he don't know where his lay is coming 
from, but, I declare, it was a godsend to me to have a voy- 
age and wages in prospect, and you were a rare good friend 
of mine, Joe, to put my name in like you done." 

It puzzled me to know just how much to tell him, but I 
explained as well as I could that it was a trading voyage 
to the West Indies and Africa, and gave him a hint that 
there was a secret connected with it whereby, if all went 
well, we were to get large profits, and let him know that 
he was to share a certain proportion of this extra money 
with Arnold, Sim, and me, in addition to the wages that 
we all were to draw. 

It seemed to satisfy him, and after thinking it over, he 
said, "I've heard Seth Upham was getting all his money 
together for some reason or other. There must be more 
than enough to buy the Adventure. He's been cashing in 
notes and mortgages all over the county, and I 'm told the 
bank is holding it for him in gold coin." 
: In gold!" I cried. 

; Gold coin," he repeated. "It's rumored round the 
county that Neil Gleazen's holding something over him 
that's frightened him into doing this and that, exactly 
according to order." 

"Where did you hear that?" I demanded. 

It was so precisely what I myself had been thinking that 
it seemed as if I must have talked too freely ; yet I knew 
that I had held my tongue. 

"Oh, one place and another," he replied. Then, chang- 
ing the subject, he remarked, "There '11 be a grand time 
in town to-morrow, what with speeches and all. I'd like 
to have brought my wife to see it, but I was afraid it 
would make it harder for her when I leave." 

"She does n't want you to go?" 



(C 

<( , 



A WILD NIGHT 67 



"Oh, she's glad for me to have the chance, but she's no 
hand to bear up at parting." 

Conversing thus, we drove on into the twilight and fall- 
ing dusk, till we came so near the town that we could see 
ahead of us the tavern, all alight and cheerful for the eve- 
ning. 

"I wonder," Abe cried eagerly, " who'll be sitting by 
the table with a hot supper in front of him, and Nellie 
Nuttles to fetch and carry." 

I was hungry after my day's drive and could not help 
sharing Abe's desire for a meal at the tavern, which was 
known as far as Boston and beyond for its good food; 
but I had no permission thus wantonly to spend Uncle 
Seth's money, so I snapped the whip and was glad to 
hear the louder rattling of wheels as the horses broke 
into a brisk trot, which made our own supper seem appre- 
ciably nearer. 

And who, indeed, would be sitting now behind those 
lighted windows? Abe's question came back to me as 
we neared the tavern. The broad roofs seemed to suggest 
the very essence of hospitality, and as if to indorse their 
promise of good fare, a roar of laughter came out into 
the night. 

As we passed, I looked through one of the windows that 
but a moment since had been rattling from the mirth 
within, and saw - - 1 looked again and made sure that I 
was not mistaken ! - - saw Neil Gleazen, red-faced and 
wild-eyed, standing by the bar with a glass raised in his 
hand. 

The sight surprised me, for although Gleazen, like al- 
most everyone else in old New England, took his wine regu- 
larly, in all the months since his return he had conducted 
himself so soberly that there had been not the slightest 
suggestion that he ever got himself the worse for liquor ; 



u 
II 



68 THE GREAT QUEST 

and even more it amazed me to see beside him one Jed 
Matthews who was, probably, the most unscrupulous 
member of the lawless crew with whom Gleazen was said 
to have associated much in the old days, but of whom he 
had seen, everyone believed, almost nothing since he had 
come home. 

As we drove on past the blacksmith shop, I saw the 
smith smoking his pipe in the twilight. 
It's a fine evening," I called. 

It is," said he, coming into the road. And in a lower 
voice he added, "Did you see him when you passed the 
inn?" 

"Yes," I replied, knowing well enough whom he meant. 

"They've called me a fool," the smith responded, "but 
before this night's over we'll see who's a fool." He 
puffed away at his pipe and looked at me significantly. 
"We'll see who's a fool, I or them that has so much more 
money and wisdom than I." 

He went back and sat down, and Abe and I drove on, 
puzzled and uncomfortable. The smith was vindictive. 
Could he, I wondered, be right ? 

A good supper was keeping hot for us in the brick oven, 
and we sat down to it with the good-will that it merited ; 
but before w r e were more than half through, my uncle burst 
in upon us. He seemed harassed by anxiety, and went at 
once to the window, where he stood looking out into the 
darkness. 

"Have you heard anything said around town?" he pres- 
ently demanded, more sharply, it seemed to me, than ever. 

"I've heard little since I got back," I returned. "Only 
the smith's ravings. He was in an ill temper as we passed. 
But I saw Neil Gleazen at the inn drinking with Jed 
Matthews." 

"The ungrateful reprobate!" Uncle Seth cried with an 



A WILD NIGHT 69 

angry gesture. "He's drawn me into this thing hand and 
foot --hand and foot. I'm committed. It's too late to 
withdraw, and he knows it. And now, now for the first 
time, mind you, he's starting on one of his old sprees." 

"He's not a hard drinker," I said. " In all the tune he 's 
been in Topham he's not been the worse for liquor, and 
this evening, so far as I could see, he was just taking a 
glass - 

"You don't know him as he used to be," my uncle cried. 

"A glass," put in Abe Guptil ; "but with Jed Mat- 
thews!" 

"You've hit the nail on the head," Uncle Seth burst 
out --"with Jed Matthews. God save we're ruined by 
this night 's work. If he should go out to Higgleby's barn 
with that gang of thieves, my good name will go too. I 
swear I'll sell the brig." 

Uncle Seth wildly paced the room and scowled until 
every testy wrinkle on his face was drawn into one huge 
knot that centred in his forehead. 

The only sounds, as Abe and I sat watching him in si- 
lence, were the thumping of his feet as he walked and the 
hoarse whisper of his breathing. Plainly, he was keyed up 
to a pitch higher than ever I had seen him. 

At that moment, from far beyond the village, shrilly 
but faintly, came a wild burst of drunken laughter. It was 
a single voice and one strange to me. There was something 
devilish in its piercing, unrestrained yell. 

"Merciful heavens!" Uncle Seth cried, actually his 
hand was shaking like the palsy ; a note of fear in his 
strained voice struck to my heart like a finger of ice, 
" I 'd know that sound if I heard it in the shrieking of hell ; 
and I have not heard Neil Gleazen laugh like that in 
thirty years. Come, boys, maybe we can stop him before 
it's too late." 



70 THE GREAT QUEST 

Thrusting his fingers through his hair so that it stood 
out on all sides in disorder, he wildly dashed from the 
room. 

Springing up, Abe and I followed him outdoors and 
down the road. We ran with a will, but old though he 
was, a frenzy of fear and anxiety and shame led him on at 
a pace we could scarcely equal. Down the long road in- 
to town we ran, all three, breathing harder and harder as 
we went, past the store, the parsonage, and the church, 
and past the smithy, where someone called to us and 
hurried out to stop us. 

It was the smith, who loomed up big and black and om- 
inous in the darkness. 

"They've gone," he said, "they've gone to Higgleby's 
barn." 

" Who?" my uncle demanded. "Who? Say who ! For 
heaven's sake don't keep me here on tenterhooks!" 

"Neil Gleazen," said the smith, "and Jed Matthews 
and all the rest. Ah, you would n't listen to me." 

"And all the rest !" Uncle Seth echoed weakly. 

For a moment he reeled as if bewildered, even dazed. 
Whatever it was that had come over him, it seemed to 
have pierced to some unsuspected weakness in the fibre 
of the man, some spot so terribly sensitive that he was 
fairly crazed by the thrust. To Abe and me, both of us 
shocked and appalled, he turned with the madness of de- 
spair in his eyes. 

"Boys," he said hoarsely, "we've got to be ready to 
leave. Call Sim and Arnold ! Hitch up the horses ! Pack 
my bag and - - and, Joe, " - he laid his hand on my shoul- 
der and whispered hi my ear, a mere trembling breath of a 
whisper, - -"here's the key to the house safe. Pack all 
that's in it in the bed of the wagon while the others are 
busy elsewhere. Joe ! what a wretched man I am ! Why 



A WILD NIGHT 71 

in heaven's name could he not walk straight for just one 
day more?" 

Why, indeed? I thought. But I remembered Higgleby's 
barn, and in my own heart I knew the reason. Secretly, all 
this time, Neil Gleazen had been hand in glove with his 
old disreputable cronies ; now that he had got Uncle Seth 
so far committed to this new venture that he could not 
desert it, Gleazen was entirely willing to throw away his 
hard-won reputation for integrity, for the sake of one fare- 
well fling with the "old guard." 

"Go, lads," Uncle Seth cried ; "go quickly." He rested 
a shaking hand on my arm as Abe turned away. "My 
poor, poor boy!" he murmured. "I've meant to do so 
well by you, Joey! Heaven keep us all!" 

"But you?" I asked. 

"I'm going, if I can, to bring Neil Gleazen back before 
it is too late," Uncle Seth replied. And with that he set 
off into the darkness. 

As we turned back to the store to rouse up Arnold 
and Sim, I caught a glimpse of the stark white platform 
on the green, which was visible even in the darkness, and 
ironically I thought of the farewell ceremonies that were 
to take place next day. 

I shall never forget how the store looked that night, as 
Abe and I came hurrying up to it. The shadows on the 
porch were as black as ink, and the shuttered windows 
seemed to stare like the sightless eyes of a blind man who 
hears a familiar voice and turns as if to see whence it 
comes. From the windows of the room above, which 
Arnold and Sim occupied, there shone a few thin shafts of 
light along the edges of the shades, and the window frames 
divided the shades themselves into small yellow squares, 
on which a shadow came and went as one of the men 
moved about the room. 



72 THE GREAT QUEST 

In reply to our cries and knocks, Arnold raised the cur- 
tain and we saw first his head, then Sim's, black against 
the lighted room. 

"Who is there?" he called, "and what's wanted?" 

Almost before we had finished pouring out our story, 
Arnold was downstairs and fumbling at the bolts of the 
door ; and as we entered the dark store, Sim, his shoes in 
his hand, followed him, even more than usually grotesque 
in the light from above. 

"My friends," said Arnold, calmly, "let us now, all 
four, prove to ourselves and to Seth Upham, the mettle 
that is hi us." 

We lost no time in idle speculation. Dividing among us 
all that was to be done, we fell to with a will. Working 
like men possessed, we packed our own possessions and 
Uncle Seth's, both at the store and at the barn ; and while 
the others were still busy in the carriage-shed, I hurried 
back to the house and opened the safe, and brought out 
bags of money and papers and heaven knows what, and as 
secretly as possible packed them in the bottom of the 
wagon. For three hours we toiled at one place and the 
other ; then, hot, tired, excited, apprehensive of we knew 
not what, we rested by the wagon and waited. 

"I never heard of anything so rattle-headed in all my 
life," Sim Muzzy cried, when he had caught his breath. 
"Seth Upham gets crazier every day. Here all's ready for 
the grand farewell to-morrow and all of us to be there, and 
not one of us to leave town until next week, and yet he 
gets us up at all hours of the night as if we was to start 
come sunrise. I 'm not going to run away at such an hour, 
I can tell you. Why it may be they '11 call on me to make 
a speech ! Who knows?" 

"We'll be lucky, I fear," said Arnold Lamont, "if we 
do not start before sunrise." 



A WILD NIGHT 73 

"Before sunrise! Well, I'll have you know- 

I simply could not endure Sim's interminable talk. 
" Watch the goods and the wagon, you three," I said. 
"I'm going to look for Uncle Seth and see what he wants 
us to do next." 

Before they could object, I had left them sitting by the 
wagon and the harnessed horses, ready for no one knew 
what, and had made off into the night. Having done all 
that I could to carry out my uncle's orders, I had no in- 
tention of returning until I had solved the mystery of 
Higgleby's barn. 

I hurried along and used every short cut that I knew ; 
and though I now stumbled in the darkness, now fell head- 
long on the dewy grass, now barked my shins as I scram- 
bled over a barway, I made reasonably good progress, all 
things considered, and came in less than half an hour to 
the pasture where Higgleby's lonely barn stood. The door 
of the barn, as I saw it from a distance, was open and 
made a rectangle of yellow light against the black woods 
beyond it. When I listened, I heard confused voices. As I 
was about to advance toward the barn, a certain note in 
the voices warned me that a quarrel was in progress. I 
hesitated and stopped where I was, wondering whether to 
go forward or not, and there I heard a strange sound and 
saw a strange sight. 

First there came a much louder outcry than any that 
had gone before ; then the light hi the barn suddenly went 
out ; then I heard the sound of running back and forth ; 
then the light appeared again, but flickering and unsteady ; 
then a single harsh yell came all the way across the dark 
pasture ; then the light grew and grew and grew. 

It threw its rays out over the pasture land and revealed 
men running about like ants around a newly destroyed 
hill. A tongue of flame crept out of one window and 



74 THE GKEAT QUEST 

crawled up the side of the old building. A great wave of 
fire came billowing out of the door. Sparks began to fly 
and the roar and crackling grew louder and louder. 

As I breathlessly ran toward the barn, from which now 
I could see little streams of fire flowing in every direction 
through the dry grass, I suddenly became aware that there 
was someone ahead of me, and by stopping short I nar- 
rowly escaped colliding with two men whom, with a sud- 
den shock, I recognized as my uncle and Neil Gleazen. 

"Uncle Seth !" I gasped out. 

Nothing then, I think, could have surprised Seth 
Upham. There was only relief in his voice when he cried, 
"Quick, Joe, quick, take his other arm." 

Obediently, if reluctantly, I turned my back on the 
conflagration behind us, and locking my right arm through 
Neil Gleazen's left, helped partly to drag him, partly to 
carry him toward the village and the tavern. 

"I showed the villains!" Gleazen proclaimed thickly. 
" The scoundrels ! The despicable curs! I showed them 
how a gentlemen replies to such as them. I showed them, 
eh, Seth?" 

"Yes, yes, Neil ! Hush ! Be still ! There are people com- 
ing. Merciful heavens ! That fire will bring the whole 
town out upon us." 

"I showed them, the villains! the scoundrels! the des- 
picable curs! They are not used to the ways of gentle- 
men, eh, Seth?' : 

"Yes, yes, but do be still ! Do, do be still !" 

"I showed them how a gentleman acts- 

The man was as drunk as a lord, but in his thick rav- 
ings there was a fixed idea that sent a thrill of apprehen- 
sion running through me. 

"Uncle Seth," I gasped, "Uncle Seth, what has he 
done?" 



A WILD NIGHT 75 

"Quick! quick! We must hurry!" 

"What has he done?" 

"Come, come, Joe, never mind that now!" 

For the moment I yielded, and we stumbled along, arm 
in arm, with Gleazen now all but a dead weight between 
us. 

"I showed them !" he cried again. "I showed them !" 

I simply could not ignore the strange muttering in his 
voice. 

"Tell me," I cried. "Uncle Seth, tell me what he has 
done." 

"Not yet! Not yet!" 

"Tell me!" 

"Not yet!" 

"Or I'll not go another step ! " 

My uncle gasped and staggered. My importunity 
seemed to be one thing more than he could bear, poor 
man ! and even in my temper, pity sobered me and cooled 
my anger. For a moment he touched my wrist. His hand 
was icy cold. But his face, when I looked at him, was set 
and hard, and my temper flashed anew. 

"Not another step ! Tell me." 

Glancing apprehensively about, my uncle gasped in a 
hoarse undertone, "He has killed Jed Matthews." 

As people were appearing now on all sides and running 
to fight the fire, Uncle Seth and I tried our best to lead 
Gleazen into a by-path and so home by a back way ; but 
with drunken obstinacy he refused to yield an inch. "No, 
no," he roared, "I'm going to walk home past all the 
people. I 'm not afraid of them. If they say aught to me, 
I'll show 'em." 

So back we marched, supporting between us, hatless 
but with the diamonds still flashing on his finger and in 
his stock, that maudlin wretch, Cornelius Gleazen. I felt 



76 THE GREAT QUEST 

my own face redden as the curious turned to stare at us, 
and for Uncle Seth it was a sad and bitter experience ; but 
we pushed on as fast as we could go, driven always by 
fear of what would follow when the people should learn 
the whole story of the brawl in the burning barn. 

Back into the village we came, now loitering for a mo- 
ment in the deeper shadows to avoid observation, now 
pushing at top speed across a lighter open space, always 
dragging Cornelius Gleazen between us, and so up to the 
open door of the tavern. 

"Now," murmured Uncle Seth, "heaven send us help! 
Neil, Neil --Neil, I say!" 

"Well?" 

"We must get your chests and run. Your money, your 
papers - - are they packed ? ' 

"Money? What money?" 

"Your fortune ! You can never come back here. Sober 
up, Neil, sober up ! You killed Jed Matthews." 

"Served him right. Despicable cur, villain, scoundrel! 
I '11 show them." 

"Neil, Neil Gleazen!" cried my uncle, now all but 
frantic. 

"Well, I hear you." 

"Oh, oh, will he not listen to reason? Take his arm 
again, Joe." 

We lifted him up the steps and led him into the inn, and 
there in the door of the bar-room came face to face with 
the landlord, who was hot with anger. 

"Don't bring him in here, Mr. Upham," he cried; "I 
keep no house for sots and swine." 

"What!" gasped my uncle, "you'll not receive him?' : 

"Not I!" 

"But what's come over you? But you never would treat 
Mr. Gleazen like this /" 



A WILD NIGHT 77 

"But, but, but!" the landlord snarled. "This very 
night he threw my good claret in my own face and called 
it a brew for pigs. Let him seek his lodgings elsewhere." 

"Where are his chests, then?" my uncle demanded. 
"We'll take his chests and go." 

"Not till he's paid my bill." 

For a moment we stood at deadlock, Uncle Seth and I, 
with Gleazen between us, and the landlord in the bar-room 
door. Every sound from outside struck terror to us lest 
the village had discovered the worst ; lest at any moment 
we should have the people about our ears. But the land- 
lord, who, of course, knew nothing of what had been going 
forward all this time, and Gleazen, who seemed too drunk 
to care, were imperturbable, until Gleazen raised his head 
and with inflamed eyes stared at the man. 

"Who 's a swine ?" he demanded. "Who 's a sot ?" 

Lurching forward, he broke away from us and crashed 
against the landlord and knocked him into the bar-room, 
whither he himself followed. 

"You blackfaced bla 'guard!" the landlord cried; and, 
raising a chair, he started to bring it down on Gleazen's 
head. 

I had thought that the man was too drunk to move 
quickly, but now, as if a new brawl were all that he needed 
to bring him again to his faculties, he stepped back like a 
flash and raised his hand. 

A sharp, hook-like instrument used to pull corks w T as 
kept stuck into the beam above his head, where, so often 
was it used, it had worn a hollow place nearly as big as a 
bowl. This he seized and, holding it like a foil, lunged at 
the landlord as the chair descended. 

The chair struck Gleazen on the head and knocked him 
down, but the cork-puller went into the landlord's shoul- 
der, and when Gleazen, clutching it as he fell, pulled it out 



78 THE GREAT QUEST 

again, the hooked end tore a great hole in the muscles, 
from which blood spurted. 

Clapping his hand to the wound, the landlord went 
white and leaned back against the bar ; but Gleazen, hav- 
ing received a blow that might have killed a horse, got up 
nimbly and actually appeared to be sobered by the shock. 
Certainly he thought clearly and spoke to a purpose. 

"Now, by heaven!" he cried, "I have got to leave 
town. Come, Seth, come, Joe." 

"But your chests ! Your money ! " my uncle repeated in 
a dazed way. The events of the night were quite too much 
for his wits. 

"Let him keep them for the bill," said Gleazen with a 
harsh laugh. "Come, I say!" 

"But--but--" 

"Come! Hear that?" 

"Watch the back door," someone was crying. "He's 
probably dead drunk, but he's a dangerous man and we 
can't take chances." 

It was the constable's voice. 

Gleazen was already running through the long hall, and 
we followed him at our best speed. 

As we left the room, the landlord fell and carried down 
with a crash a table on which a tray of glasses was stand- 
ing. I would have stayed to help him, but I knew that 
other help was near, and to tell the truth I was beginning 
to fear the consequences of even so slight a part as mine 
had been in the ghastly happenings of the night. So I 
followed the others, and we noiselessly slipped away 
through the orchard, just as the men sent to guard the 
back door came hurrying round the house and took their 
stations. 

With the distant fire flaming against the sky, with the 
smell of smoke stinging in our nostrils, and with the clamor 




Clapping his hand to the wound the landlord went white and leaned 

back against the bar. 



A WILD NIGHT 79 

of the aroused town sounding on every side, we hurried, 
unobserved, through dark fields and orchards, to my uncle's 
house, where Arnold and Sim and Abe were impatiently 
waiting. 

They started up from beside the wagon as we drew near, 
and crowded round us with eager questions. But there was 
no time for mere talking. Already we could hear voices 
approaching, although as yet they were not dangerously 
near. 

"Come, boys," my uncle cried, "into the wagon, every 
one. Come, Neil, come - - for heaven's sake 

"Be still, Seth, I am sober." 

"Sober!" Uncle Seth put a world of disgust into the 
word. 

"Yes, sober, curse you." 

"Very well, but do climb in ' 

' ' Climb in ? I '11 climb in when it suits my convenience." 

Jostling and scrambling, we were all in the wagon at 
last. Uncle Seth held reins and whip ; Neil Gleazen, who 
was squeezed in between him and me on the seat, snored 
loudly ; and the others, finding such seats as they could on 
boxes or the bed of the wagon, endured their discomfort in 
silence. 

The whip cracked, the horses started forward, the 
wheels crunched in gravel and came out on the hard road. 
Turning our backs on the village of Topham, we left be- 
hind us the benches on the green, the fine new platform, 
the banquet that was already half prepared, and all our 
anticipations of the great farewell. 

We went up the long hill, from the summit of which we 
could see the lights of the town shining in the dark val- 
ley, the great flare of fire at the burning barn, and the 
country stretching for miles in every direction, and thence 
we drove rapidly away. 



80 THE GREAT QUEST 

Thus, for the second time, twenty years after the first, 
Cornelius Gleazen left his native town as a fugitive from 
justice. But this time the fortunes of five men were bound 
up with his, and we whom he was leading on his mad quest 
knew now only too well what we could expect of our 
drunken leader. 



CHAPTER VIII 

THE BRIG ADVENTURE 

WE drove for a long time in silence, with the jolting of 
the chaise and the terrible scenes behind us to occupy our 
minds ; and I assure you it was a grim experience. In all 
the years that have intervened I have never been able to 
escape from the memory of the burning barn, with the 
dark figures running this way and that ; the shrill cries of 
Cornelius Gleazen, staring drunk, and his talk of the man 
he had killed ; the landlord at the tavern, with the blood 
spurting from his shoulder wiiere the hook had pulled 
through the flesh. 

In a night the whole aspect of the world had changed. 
From a care-free, selfish, heedless youth, put to work de- 
spite his wish to linger over books, I had become of a sud- 
den a companion of criminals, haunted by terrible mem- 
ories, and through no fault of my own. After all, I thought, 
by whose fault was it? Cornelius Gleazen's, to be sure. 
But by whose fault was I forced to accompany Cornelius 
Gleazen in his flight ? Certainly I was guiltless of any un- 
lawful act - - for that matter, we all were, except Gleazen. 
I had not a jot of sympathy for him, yet so completely had 
he interwoven our affairs with his that, although the man 
was a drunken beast, we dared not refuse to share his 
flight. By whose fault? I again asked myself. 

For a while I would not accept the answer that came to 
me. It seemed disloyal to a well-meaning man who at one 
time and another had given a thousand evidences of his 
real affection for me, which underlay the veneer of sharp- 
ness and irascibility that he presented to the world at 



82 THE%REAT QUEST 

large. It seemed to me that I could hear him saying 
again, "You're all I've got, Joey; you're all that's left to 
the old man and I 'm going to do well by you "; that I 
could hear again the clink of gold thrown down before me 
on the table ; that I could feel his hand again on my shoul- 
der, his voice again trembling with despair when he cried, 
"I've meant to do so well by you, Joey! But now- 
heaven keep us all !" Yet, as we jounced away over that 
rough road and on into the night, and as I thought of 
things that one and another had said, I felt more and more 
confident that at bottom Seth Upham was to blame for 
our predicament. To be sure, he had meant well, even in 
this present undertaking ; and though he was said to drive 
sharp bargains, he lived, I well knew, an honest life. Yet 
I was convinced that at some time in the past he must 
have been guilty of some sin or other that gave Neil 
Gleazen his hold over him. It fairly staggered me to think 
of the power for good or evil that lies in every act in a 
man's life. To be sure, had Seth Upham been a really 
strong man, he would have lived down his mistake long 
since, whatever it might have been, and would have defied 
Gleazen to do his worst. But the crime, if such there was, 
was his, none the less ; and that it was the seed whence 
had sprung our great misfortunes, I was convinced. 

Looking back at Arnold Lament, I caught his eye by 
the light of the rising moon and found great comfort in his 
steady glance. As if to reassure me further, he laid his 
hand on my arm and slightly pressed it. 

On and on and on we drove, past towns and villages, 
over bridges and under arching trees, beside arms of the 
sea and inland ponds, until, as dawn was breaking, we 
came down the road into Boston, with the waters of the 
Charles River and of the Back Bay on our left and Beacon 
Hill before us. 



THE BRIG ADVENTURE 83 

Here and there in the town early risers were astir, and 
the smoke climbed straight up from their chimneys; but 
for the most part the people were still asleep, and the shops 
that we passed were still shuttered, except one that an 
apprentice at that very moment was opening for the day. 
Down to the wharves we drove, whence we could see craft 
of every description, both in dock and lying at anchor ; 
and there we fell into a lively discussion. 

As the horses stopped, Gleazen woke, and that he was 
sick and miserable a single glance at his face revealed. 

"Well," said he, "there's the brig." 

"Yes," Uncle Seth retorted, "and if you had kept away 
from Higgleby's barn, we'd not have seen her for a week 
to come. We've got you out of that scrape with a whole 
skin, and I swear we've done well." 

"It was sub rosa," Gleazen responded thickly, "only 
sub rosa, mind you. Under the rose - - you know, Seth." 

"Yes, I know. If I had had my wits about me, you 
would never have pulled the wool over my eyes." 

Gleazen laughed unpleasantly. It was plain that he was 
in an evil temper, and Uncle Seth, worn and harassed by 
the terrible experiences of the night, was in no mood to 
humor him. So we sat in the wagon on a wharf by the 
harbor, where the clean salt water licked at the piling and 
rose slowly with the incoming tide, while our two leaders 
bickered together. 

At last, in anger, Seth Upham cried : "I swear I'll not 
go. I'll hold back the brig. I'll keep my money. You 
shall hang." 

Gleazen laughed a low laugh that was more threatening 
by far than if as usual he had laughed with a great roar. 
"No, you don't, Seth," he quietly said. "You know the 
stakes that you've put up and you know that the win- 
nings will be big. I 've used you right, and you 're not going 



84 THE GREAT QUEST 

to go back on me now - - not while I know what I know ! 
There's them that would open their eyes to hear it, Seth. 
I 've bore the blame for thirty years, but the end 's come if 
you try to go back on me now." 

I looked at my uncle and saw that his face was white. 
His fingers were twisting back and forth and he seemed 
not to know what to say ; but at last he nodded and said, 
"All right, Neil," and got down from the wagon ; and we 
all climbed out and stretched our stiff muscles. 

"Here's a boat handy," Gleazen cried. 

Uncle Seth cut the painter, and drawing her up to a 
convenient ladder, we began to carry down our various 
belongings, finishing with the big bags that hours before 
I had packed so carefully in the bottom of the wagon. 
Neil Gleazen then seated himself in the stern sheets, Abe 
Guptil took the oars, and I climbed into the bow. 

As Uncle Seth was coming on board, Sim Muzzy stopped 
him. 

"What about the horses?" he exclaimed. "You ain't 
going off to leave them, are you ? Not with wagon and all. 
Why, they must be worth a deal of money ; they - 

"Come, come, you prattling fool," Gleazen called. 

Uncle Seth, after reflecting a moment, added sharply, 
"They'll maybe go to pay for the boat we're taking. 1 
don't like to steal, but now I see no way out. Quick ! 1 
hear steps." 

So down came Sim, and out into the harbor we rowed ; 
and when I turned to look, I saw close at hand for the first 
time the brig Adventure. 

She was a trim, well-proportioned craft, with a grace of 
masts and spars and a neatness of rigging and black and 
white paint that quite captivated me, although coming 
from what was virtually an inland town, I was by no 
means qualified to pass judgment on her merits ; and I was 



THE BRIG ADVENTURE 85 

not too weary to be glad to know that she, of all vessels in 
the harbor, was the one in which we were to sail. 

When a sleepy sailor on deck called, "Boat ahoy!" 
Gleazen gave him better than he sent with a loud, " Ahoy, 
Adventure!" 

Then we came up to her and swung with the tide under 
her chains, until a couple of other sailors came running to 
help us get our goods aboard ; then up we scrambled, one 
at a time, and set the boat adrift. 

I now found myself on a neat clean deck, and was taken 
with the buckets and pins and coiled ropes lying in tidy 
fakes but I should say, too, that I was so tired after my 
long night ride that I could scarcely keep my eyes open, 
so that I paid little attention to what was going on 
around me until I heard Uncle Seth saying, "And this, 
Captain North, is my nephew. If there are quarters for 
him aft, I'll be glad, of course." 

"Of course, sir, of course," the captain replied; and I 
knew when I first heard his voice that I was going to like 
him. "If he and the Frenchman - - Lamont you say's his 
name ? - - can share a stateroom, I 've one with two berths. 
Good ! And you say we must sail at once ? Hm ! In half 
an hour wind and tide will be in our favor. We're light of 
ballast, but if we're careful, I've no doubt it will be safe. 
We must get some fresh water. But that we can hurry up. 
Hm ! I had n't expected sailing orders so soon ; but in an 
hour's time, Mr. Upham, if it's necessary, I can weigh 
anchor." 

"Good!" cried Uncle Seth. 

"Mr. Severance," Captain North called, "take five men 
and the cutter for the rest of the fresh water, and be quick 
about it. Willie, take Mr. Woods and Mr. Lamont below 
and show them to the stateroom the lady passengers had 
when we came up from Rio. Now then, Guptil, you take 



86 THE GREAT QUEST 

your bag forward and stow it in the forecastle, and if 
you 're hungry, tell the cook I said to give you a good cup 
of coffee and a plate of beans." 

As with Arnold Lament I followed Willie MacDougald, 
the little cabin boy, I was too tired to care a straw about 
life on board a ship; and before I should come on deck 
again, I was to be too sick. But as I threw myself into one 
of the berths in our tiny cubby, I welcomed the prospect 
of at least a long sleep, and I told Arnold how sincerely 
glad I was that we were to be together. 

"Joe," he said, slowly and precisely, "I am very much 
afraid that we are going on a wild-goose chase. Seth 
Upham has been kind to me in his own way. He is one of 
the few friends I have in this world. Now, I think, he 
would gladly be rid of me. But I shall stay with him to 
the end, for I think the time is coming when he will need 
his friends." 

I am afraid I fell asleep before Arnold finished what he 
had to say ; but weary though I was, I felt even then a 
great confidence in this quiet, restrained man. He was so 
wise, so unfathomable. And I felt already the growing de- 
termination, which, before we had seen the last of Neil 
Gleazen, was to absorb almost my very life, to work side 
by side with Arnold Lament in order to save what we 
could of Uncle Seth's happiness and property from the 
hands of the man who, we both saw, had got my poor 
uncle completely in his power. 



CHAPTER IX 

AN OLD SEA SONG 

THE noise of the crew as they catted the anchor and 
made sail must have waked me more than once, for to 
this very day I remember hearing distinctly the loud 
chorus of a chantey, the trampling of many feet, the 
creaking and rattling and calling - - the strange jumble of 
sounds heard only when a vessel is getting under way. 
But strange and interesting though it all was, I must im- 
mediately have fallen asleep again each time, for the mem- 
ories come back to me like strange snatches of a vivid 
dream, broken and disconnected, for all that they are so 
clear. 

When at last, having slept my sleep out, I woke with 
no inclination to close my eyes again, and sat up in my 
berth, the brig was pitching and rolling in a heavy sea, and 
a great wave of sickness engulfed me, such as I had never 
experienced. How long it lasted, I do not know, but at the 
time it seemed like months and years. 

Perhaps, had I been forced to go on deck and work 
aloft, and eat coarse sea-food, and meet my sickness like a 
man, I might have thrown it off in short order and have 
got my sea-legs as soon as another. But coming on board 
as the owner's nephew, with a stateroom at my command, 
I lay and suffered untold wretchedness, now thinking that 
I was getting better, now relapsing into agonies that 
seemed to me ten times worse than before. Uncle Seth 
himself, I believe, was almost as badly off, and Arnold 
Lamont and Willie MacDougald had a time of it tending 
us. Even Arnold suffered a touch of sickness at first ; but 



88 THE GREAT QUEST 

recovering from it promptly, he took Uncle Seth and me 
in his charge and set Willie jumping to attend our wants, 
which he did with a comical alacrity that under other cir- 
cumstances would mightily have amused me. 

I took what satisfaction I could in being able to come 
on deck two days before Uncle Seth would stir from his 
bunk ; but even then I was good for nothing except to lie 
on a blanket that Arnold and Willie spread for me, or to 
lean weakly against the rail. 

But now, as I watched the blue seas through which the 
keen bow of the brig, a Baltimore craft of clipper lines, 
swiftly and smoothly cut its course, the great white sails, 
with every seam drawn to a taut, clean curve by the wind, 
the occasional glimpses of low land to the west, and the 
succession of great clouds that swept across the blue sky 
like rolling masses of molten silver, I fell to thinking in a 
dull, bewildered way of all that we had left behind. 

How long would it be, I wondered, before someone 
would take charge of the horses we had left on the wharf 
in Boston? I could imagine the advertisement that would 
appear in the paper, and the questions of the people, until 
news should come from Topham of all that had happened. 
Who then, I wondered, would get the team? 

Well, all that was done with, and we were embarked on 
our great adventure. What was to become of us, no human 
prophet could foretell. 

Cornelius Gleazen, who years before had got over his 
last attack of seasickness, welcomed me on deck, with 
rough good-nature ; but something in his manner told me 
that, from this time on, hi his eyes I was one of the crowd, 
no further from his favor, perhaps, than any of the others, 
but certainly no nearer it. 

To me, so weak from my long sickness that I could 
scarcely stand unaided, this came like a blow, even al- 



AN OLD SEA SONG 89 

though I had completely lost my admiration for the man. 
I had been so sure of his friendly interest! So confident 
of my own superiority! As I thought of it, I slowly came 
to see that his kindness and flattery had been but a part 
of his deep and well-considered plan to work into the con- 
fidence of my uncle; that since he had secured his hold 
upon Seth Upham and all his worldly goods, I, vain, 
credulous youth, might, for all he cared, sink or swim. 

"Well," he would say carelessly, "how's the lad this 
morning?" And when I would reply from the depths of 
my misery, he would respond briefly, as he strolled away, 
"Better pull yourself together. There's work ahead for all 
hands." 

It was not in his words, you understand, that I found 
indication of his changed attitude, he was always a man 
of careless speech, but in his manner of saying them. 
The tilt of his head, and his trick of not looking at me 
when he spoke and when I replied, told me as plainly as 
direct speech could have done that, having gained what- 
ever ends he had sought by flattery, he cared not a straw 
whether I came with him or followed my own inclinations 
to the opposite end of the earth. 

So we sailed, south, until we entered the Straits of Flor- 
ida. Now we saw at a distance great scarlet birds flying 
in a row. Now schools of porpoises played around us. 
Now a big crane, speckled brown and white, alighted on 
our rigging. Now we passed green islands, now sandy 
shoals where the sea rose into great waves and crashed 
down in cauldrons of foam. And now we sighted land and 
learned that it was Cuba. 

All this time I had constantly been gaining strength, and 
though more than once we had passed through spells of 
rough weather, I had had no return of seasickness. It was 
natural, therefore, that I should take an increasing inter- 



90 THE GREAT QUEST 

est in all that went on around me. With some of the sail- 
ors I established myself on friendly terms, although others 
seemed to suspect me of attempting to patronize them ; 
and thanks to the tutelage of Captain North, I made my- 
self familiar with the duties of the crew and with tne more 
common evolutions of a sailing ship. But in all that voy- 
age only one thing came to my notice that gave any 
suggestion of what was before us, and that suggestion was 
so vague that at the time I did not suspect how significant 
it was. 

In the first dog watch one afternoon, the carpenter, who 
had a good voice and a good ear for music, got out his 
guitar and, after strumming a few chords, began to sing a 
song so odd that I set my mind on remembering it, and 
later wrote the words down : 

"Old King Mungo-Hungo-Ding 

A barracoon he made, 
And sold his blessed subjects to 

A captain in the trade. 
And when his subjects all were gone, 

Oh, what did Mungo do ? 
He drove his wives and daughters in 

And traded for them, too." 

He sang it to a queer tune that caught my feet and set 
them twitching, and it was no surprise to see three or four 
sailors begin to shuffle about the deck hi time to the music. 
As the carpenter took up the chorus, they, too, began to 
sing softly and to dance a kind of a hornpipe ; but, I must 
confess, I was surprised to hear someone behind me join 
in the singing under his breath. The last time when I had 
heard that voice singing was in the village church in Top- 
ham, and unless my memory serves me wrong, it then had 
sung that good hymn : - 



AN OLD SEA SONG 91 

"No, I shall envy them no more, who grow profanely great ; 
Though they increase their golden store, and shine in robes of state." 

It was Cornelius Gleazen, who, it appeared, knew both 
words and tune of the carpenter's song : - 

"Tally on the braces! Heave and haul in time ! 
Four and twenty niggers and all of them was prime ! 
Old King Mungo's daughters, they bought our lasses rings. 
Heave now ! Pull now I They never married kings." 

They sang on and on to the strumming of the guitar, 
while all the rest stood around and watched them ; and 
when they had finished the song, which told how King 
Mungo, when he had sold his family as well as his subjects, 
made a raid upon his neighbors and was captured in 
his turn and, very justly, was himself sold as a slave, 
Cornelius Gleazen cried loudly, "Encore! Encore!" and 
clapped his hands, until the carpenter, with a droll look 
in his direction, again began to strum his guitar and sang 
the song all over. 

As I have said, at the time I attributed little significance 
to Cornelius Gleazen's enthusiasm for the song or to the 
look that the carpenter gave him. But when I saw Cap- 
tain North staring from one to the other and realized that 
he had seen and heard only what I had, I wondered why 
he wore so queer an expression, and why, for some time to 
come, he was so grave and stiff in his dealings with both 
Gleazen and Uncle Seth. Nor did it further enlighten me 
to see that Arnold Lament and Captain North exchanged 
significant glances. 

So at last we came to the mouth of Havana harbor, and 
you can be sure that when, after lying off the castle all 
night, we set our Jack at the main as signal for a pilot, and 
passed through the narrow strait between Moro Castle and 



92 THE GREAT QUEST 

the great battery of La Punta, and came to anchor in the 
vast and beautiful port where a thousand ships of war 
might have lain, I was all eyes for my first near view of a 
foreign city. 

On every side were small boats plying back and forth, 
some laden with freight of every description, from fresh 
fruit to nondescript, dingy bales, others carrying only one 
or two passengers or a single oarsman. There were scores 
of ships, some full of stir and activity getting up anchor 
and making sail, others seeming hah asleep as they lay 
with only a drowsy anchor watch. On shore, besides the 
grand buildings and green avenues and long fortifications, 
I could catch here and there glimpses of curious two- 
wheeled vehicles, of men and women with bundles on their 
heads, of countless negroes lolling about on one errand or 
another, and, here and there, of men on horseback. I 
longed to hurry ashore, and when I saw Uncle Seth and 
Neil Gleazen deep in conversation, I had great hopes that 
I should accomplish my desire. But something at that mo- 
ment put an end for the tune being to all such thoughts. 

Among the boats that were plying back and forth I saw 
one that attracted my attention by her peculiar ma- 
noeuvres. A negro was rowing her at the command of a 
big dark man, who leaned back in the stern and looked 
sharply about from one side to the other. Now he had 
gone beyond us, but instead of continuing, he came about 
and drew nearer. 

He wore his hair in a pig-tail, an old fashion that not 
many men continued to observe, and on several fingers he 
wore broad gold rings. His face was seamed and scarred. 
There were deep cuts on cheek and chin, which might have 
been either scars or natural wrinkles, and across his fore- 
head and down one cheek were two white lines that must 
have been torn in the first place by some weapon or mis- 



AN OLD SEA SONG 93 

sile. His hands were big and broad and powerful, and 
there was a grimly determined air in the set of his head 
and the thin line of his mouth that made me think of him 
as a man I should not like to meet alone in the dark. 

From the top of his round head to the soles of his feet, 
his whole body gave an impression of great physical 
strength. His jaws and chin were square and massive ; his 
bull neck sloped down to great broad shoulders, and his 
deep chest made his long, heavy arms seem to hang away 
from his body. As he lay there in the stern of the boat, 
with every muscle relaxed, yet with great swelling masses 
standing out under his skin all over him, I thought to 
myself that never in all my life had I seen so powerful 
a man. 

Now he leaned forward and murmured something to the 
negro, who with a stroke of his oars deftly brought the 
boat under the stern of the Adventure and held her there. 
Then the man, smiling slightly, amazed me by calling in 
a voice so soft and gentle and low that it seemed almost 
effeminate: "Neil Gleazen! Neil Gleazen!" 

The effect on Cornelius Gleazen was startling almost 
beyond words. Springing up and staring from one side to 
the other as if he could not believe his ears, he roared 
furiously: "By the Holy! Molly Matterson, where are 
you?" 

Then the huge bull of a man, speaking in that same low, 
gentle voice, said ; "So you know me, Neil?' : 

"Know you ? I 'd know your voice from Pongo River to 
Penzance," Gleazen replied, whirling about and leaning far 
over the taffrail. 

The big man laughed so lightly that his voice seemed al- 
most to tinkle. "You're eager, Neil," he said. Then he 
glanced at me and spoke again in a language that I could 
not understand. At the time I had no idea what it was, but 



94 THE GREAT QUEST 

since then I have come to know well - - too well - - that it 
was Spanish. 

And all the time my uncle stood by with a curiously 
wistful expression. It was as if he felt himself barred from 
their council ; as if he longed to be one of them, hand in 
glove, and yet felt that there was between him and them a 
gap that he could not quite bridge ; as if with his whole 
heart he had given himself and everything that was his, as 
indeed he had, only to receive a cold welcome. Remem- 
bering how haughtily Uncle Seth himself had but a little 
while ago regarded the good people of Topham, how sel- 
dom he had expressed even the very deep affection in 
which he held me, his only sister's only son, I marveled at 
the simple, frank eagerness with which he now watched 
those two ; and since anyone could see that of him they 
were thinking lightly, if at all, I felt for him a pang of 
sympathy. 

For a while the two talked together. Now they glanced 
at me, now at the others. I am confident that they told no 
secrets, for of course there was always the chance that 
some of us might speak the tongue, too. But that they 
talked more freely than they would have talked in Eng- 
lish, I was very confident. 

At last Gleazen said, "Come aboard at all events." 

Instead of going around to the chains, the big man 
whom Gleazen had hailed as Molly Matterson stood up 
in the boat, crouched slightly, and leaping straight into the 
air, caught the taffrail with one hand. Gracefully, easily, 
he lifted himself by that one hand to the rail, placed his 
other hand upon it, where his gold rings gleamed dully, and 
lightly vaulted to the deck. 

I now saw better what a huge man he was, for he tow- 
ered above us all, even Neil Gleazen, and he seemed 
almost as broad across the chest as any two of us. 



AN OLD SEA SONG 95 

He gently shook hands with Uncle Seth and Captain 
North, to whom Gleazen introduced him, again glanced 
curiously at the rest of us, and then stepped apart with 
Gieazen and Uncle Seth. I could hear only a little of what 
they said, and the little that I did hear was concerned 
with unfamiliar names and mysterious things. 

I saw Arnold Lament watching them, too, and remem- 
bering how they had talked in a strange language, I wished 
that Arnold might have appeared to know what they had 
been saying. Well as I thought I knew Arnold, it never oc- 
curred to me that he might have known and, for reasons 
of his own, have held his tongue. 

Of one thing I was convinced, however ; the strange talk 
that was now going on was no such puzzle to Captain 
Gideon North as to me. The more he listened, the more 
his lips twitched and the more his frown deepened. It was 
queer, I thought, that he should appear to be so quick- 
tempered as to show impatience because he was not taken 
into their counsel. He had seemed so honest and fair- 
minded and generous that I had not suspected him of any 
such pettiness. 

Presently Gleazen turned about and said loudly, " Cap- 
tain North, we are going below to have a glass of wine to- 
gether. Will you come?" 

The captain hesitated, frowned, and then, as if he had 
suddenly made up his mind that he might as well have 
things over soon as late, stalked toward the companion- 
way. 

Twenty minutes afterward, to the amazement of every 
man on deck, he came stamping up again, red with anger, 
followed by Willie MacDougald, who was staggering under 
the weight of his bag. Ordering a boat launched, he turned 
to Uncle Seth, who had followed him and stood behind 
him with a blank, dismayed look. 



96 



THE GREAT QUEST 



"Mr. Upham," he said, "I am sorry to leave your ves- 
sel like this, but I will not, sir, I will not remain in com- 
mand of any craft afloat, be she coasting brig or ship-of- 
the-line, where the owner's friends are suffered to treat me 
thus. Willie, drop my bag into the boat." 

And with that, red-faced and breathing hard, he left the 
Adventure and gave angry orders to the men in the boat, 
who rowed him ashore. But it was not the last that we 
were to see of Gideon North. 




Ill 

A LOW LAND IN THE EAST 



CHAPTER X 
MATTERSON 

"AND who," I wondered, as I turned from watching 
Gideon North go out of sight between the buildings that 
lined the harbor side, "who will now command the Ad- 
venture?' 

You would have expected the captain's departure to 
make a great stir in a vessel ; yet scarcely a person forward 
knew what was going on, and aft only Seth Upham and 
Willie MacDougald, besides myself, were seeing him off. 
Uncle Seth still stood in the companionway with that 
blank, dazed expression ; but Willie MacDougald scratched 
his head and looked now at me and now at Uncle Seth, as 
if whatever had happened below had frightened him might- 
ily. The picture of their bewilderment vras so funny that 
I could have burst out laughing ; and yet, so obviously 
was there much behind it which did not appear on the sur- 
face, that I was really more apprehensive than amused. 

When Uncle Seth suddenly turned and disappeared 
down the companionway, and when Willie MacDougald 
with an inquisitive glance at me darted over to the com- 
panion-hatch and stood there with his head cocked bird- 
like on one side to catch any sound that might issue from 
the cabin, I boldly followed my uncle. 

The brig was riding almost without motion at her an- 
chorage, and all on deck was so quiet that we could hear 
across the silent harbor the rattle of blocks in a distant 
ship, the voice of a bos'n driving his men to greater ef- 
fort, and from the distant city innumerable street cries. 
In the cabin, too, as I descended to it, everything was very 



100 THE GREAT QUEST 

still. When I came to the door, I saw my uncle standing at 
one side of the big, round table on which a chart lay. Op- 
posite him sat Neil Gleazen, and on his right that huge man 
with the light voice, Molly Matterson. 

None of them so much as glanced at me when I ap- 
peared in the door ; but I saw at once that, although they 
were saying nothing, they were thinking deeply and an- 
grily. The intensity with which they glared, the two now 
staring hard at Seth Upham and now at each other, my 
uncle looking first at Matterson, then at Gleazen, and 
then at Matterson again, so completely absorbed my in- 
terest, that I think nothing short of a broadside fired by a 
man-of-war could have distracted my attention. 

I heard the steps creak as Willie MacDougald now came 
on tiptoe part way down the companion. I heard the heavy 
breathing of the men in the cabin. Then, far across the 
harbor, I heard the great voice of a chantey man singing 
while the crew heaved at the windlass. And still the three 
men glared in silence at one another. It was Matterson 
who broke the spell, when in his almost girlish voice he 
said ; "He don't seem to like me as captain of his vessel, 
Neil." 

"You old whited sepulchre," Neil Gleazen cried, speak- 
ing not to Matterson, but to my uncle; "just because 
you 've got money at stake is no reason to think you know 
a sailor-man when you see one. Why, Matterson, here, 
could give Gideon North a king's cruiser and outsail him 
in a Gloucester pinkie." 

My uncle swallowed hard and laughed a little wildly. 
" If you had n't got yourself run out of town, Neil Gleazen, 
and had to leave your chests with all that's in them be- 
hind you, you might have had money to put in this ves- 
sel yourself. As it is, the brig's mine and I swear I'll have 
a voice in saying who's to be her master." 



MATTERSON 101 

"A voice you shall have," Gleazen retorted, while the 
bull-necked Matterson broadly grinned at the squabble ; 
"a voice you shall have, but you're only one of five good 
men, Seth, only one, and a good long way from being the 
best of 'em, and your voice is just one vote in five. Now 
I, here, vote for Molly and, Molly, here, votes for him- 
self, and there ain't no need of thinking who the others 
would vote for. We've outvoted you already." 

Uncle Seth turned from red to white and from white to 
red. "Let it be one vote to four, then. Though it's only 
one to four, my vote is better than all the rest. The brig 's 
mine. I swear, if you try to override me so, I '11 put her in 
the hands of the law. And if these cursed Spaniards will 
not do me justice, ' again he laughed a little wildly, 
"there's an American frigate in port and we'll see what 
her officers will say." 

"Ah," said Gleazen, gently, "we'll see what we shall 
see. But you mark what I'm going to tell you, Seth 
Upham, mark it and mull it over : I 'm a ruined man ; 
there's a price on my head, I know. But they'll never take 
me, because I Ve friends ashore, eh, Molly ? You can 
do me no harm by going to the captain of any frigate you 
please. But - - But - - let me tell you this, Seth Upham : 
when you've called in help and got this brig away from 
your friends what have given you a chance to better your- 
self, news is going to come to the captain of that ship 
about all them churches you and me used to rob together 
when we was lads in Topham. Aye, Seth, and about one 
thing and another that will interest the captain. And sup- 
posing he don't clap you into irons and leave you there 
to cool your heels, supposing he don't, mind } T OU, 
which he probably will, to get the reward that folks will 
be offering when I Ve told what I shall tell, supposing 
you come back to Topham from which you run away with 



102 THE GREAT QUEST 

that desperate villain, Neil Gleazen, supposing, which 
ain't likely, that's what happens, you'll find when you 
get there that news has come before you. You old fool, 
unless you and me holds together like the old friends which 
we used to be, you '11 find yourself a broken man with the 
jail doors open and waiting for you. I know what I know, 
and you know what I know, but as long as I keep my 
mouth shut nobody else is going to know. As long as I 
keep my mouth shut, mind you. 

"Now I votes for Molly Matterson as captain ; and let 
me tell you, Seth Upham, you 'd better be reasonable and 
come along like you and me owned this brig together, 
which by rights we do, seeing that I 've put in the brains 
as my share. It ain't fitting to talk of your ow r ning her 
outright." 

Uncle Seth, I could see, was baffled and bewildered and 
hurt. With an irresolute glance at me, which seemed to 
express his confusion plainer than words, he nervously 
twitched his fingers and at last hi a low, hurried voice 
said: "That's all talk, and talk's cheap -- unless it's 
money talking. Now if you had n't made a fool of your- 
self and had to run away and leave your chests and money 
behind you, you'd have a right to talk." 

Gleazen suddenly threw back his head and roared with 
laughter. 

: Them chests ! " he bellowed. "Oh, them chests ! " 
[ Well," Uncle Seth cried, wrinkling Ms face till his nose 
seemed to be the centre of a spider's web, "well, w^hy not? 
What's so cursedly funny about them chests ?' : 

"Oh, ho ho !" Gleazen roared. "Them chests ! Money ! 
There warn't no money in them chests - - not a red round 
copper." 

"But what but why- Uncle Seth's face, always 
quick to express every emotion, smoothed out until it was 



U I 

(I 



MATTERSON 103 

as blank with amazement as before it had been wrinkled 
with petulance. 

"You silly fool," Gleazen thundered, no other word 
can express the vigor of contempt and derision that his 
voice conveyed, "do you think that, if ever I had got a 
comfortable fortune safe to Topham, I'd take to the sea 
and leave it there ? Bah ! Them chests was crammed to 
the lid with toys and trinkets, which I 've long since given 
to the children. Them chests served their purpose well, 
Seth, again he laughed, and we knew that he was 
laughing at my uncle and me, who had believed all his 
great tales of vast wealth, "and they'll do me one 
more good turn when they show their empty sides to 
whomsoever pulls 'em open in hope of finding gold." 

Matterson, looking from one to another, laughed with a 
ladylike tinkle of his light voice, and Gleazen once more 
guffawed ; but my uncle sat weakly down and turned 
toward me his dazed face. 

He and I suddenly, for the first tune, realized to the full 
what we should of course have been stupid indeed not to 
have got inklings of before : that Neil Gleazen had come 
home to Topham, an all but penniless adventurer ; that, 
instead of being a rich man who wished to help my uncle 
and the rest of us to better ourselves, he had been working 
on credulous Uncle Seth's cupidity to get from him the 
wherewithal to reestablish his own shattered fortunes. 

Of the pair of us, I was the less amazed. Although I had 
by no means guessed all that Gleazen now revealed, I had 
nevertheless been more suspicious than my uncle of the 
true state of the chests that Gleazen had so willingly 
abandoned at the inn. 

"Come," said Matterson, lightly, "let's be friends, 
Upham. I'm no ogre. I can sail your vessel. You'll see 
the crew work as not many crews know how to work 



104 THE GEE AT QUEST 

and yet I '11 not drive 'em hard, either. I make one flog- 
ging go a long way, Upham. Here 's my hand on it. Nor 
do I want to be greedy. Say the word and I '11 be mate, not 
skipper. Find your own skipper." 

My uncle looked from one to the other. He was still 
dazed and disconcerted. We lacked a mate because cir- 
cumstances had forced us to sail at little more than a mo- 
ment's notice, with only Mr. Severance as second officer. 
It was manifest that the two regarded my uncle with good- 
humored contempt, that he was not in the least necessary 
to their plans, yet that with something of the same clumsy 
tolerance with which a great, confident dog regards an 
annoying terrier, they were entirely willing to forgive his 
petulant outbursts, provided always that he did not too 
long persist in them. What could the poor man do? He 
accepted Matterson's proffered hand, failed to restrain a 
cry when the mighty fist squeezed his fingers until the 
bones crackled, and weakly settled back in his chair, while 
Gleazen again laughed. 

When he and Gleazen faced about with hostile glances, 
I turned away, carrying with me the knowledge that Mat- 
terson was to go to Africa with the Adventure in one ca- 
pacity, if not in another, and left the three in the cabin. 

In the companionway I all but stumbled over Willie 
MacDougald, who was such a comical little fellow, with 
his great round eyes and freckled face and big ears, which 
stood out from his head like a pair of fans, that I was 
amused by what I assumed to be merely his lively curi- 
osity. But late that same night I found occasion to sus- 
pect that it was more than mere curiosity, and of that I 
shall presently speak again. 

There were, it seemed to me, when I came up on the 
quarter-deck of the Adventure, a thousand strange sights 



MATTERSON 105 

to be seen, and in my eager desire to miss none of them 
I almost, but never quite, forgot what had been going on 
below. 

When at last Seth Upham emerged alone from the com- 
panion head, he came and stood beside me without a 
word, and, like me, fell to watching the flags of many na- 
tions that were flying in the harbor, the city on its flat, 
low plain, the softly green hills opposite us, and the great 
fortifications that from the entrance to the harbor and 
from the distant hilltops guarded town and port. After a 
while, he began to pace back and forth across the quarter- 
deck. His head was bent forward as he walked and there 
was an unhappy look in his eyes. 

I could see that various of the men were watching him ; 
but he gave no sign of knowing it, and I truly think he was 
entirely unconscious of what went on around him. Back 
and forth he paced, and back and forth, buried always 
deep in thought ; and though several times I became aware 
that he had fixed his eyes upon me, never was I able to 
look up quickly enough to meet them squarely, nor had he 
a word to say to me. Poor Uncle Seth ! Had one who 
thought himself so shrewd really fallen such an easy vic- 
tim to a man whose character he ought by rights to have 
known in every phase and trait ? I left him still pacing the 
deck when I went below to supper. 

Because of my long seasickness I had had comparatively 
few meals in the cabin, and always before there had been 
the honest face of Gideon North to serve me as a sea 
anchor, so to speak ; but now even Uncle Seth was absent, 
and as Arnold Lament and I sat opposite Matterson and 
Gleazen, with Uncle Seth's place standing empty at one 
end of the table and the captain's place standing empty 
at the other, I could think only of Gideon North going 



106 THE GREAT QUEST 

angrily over the side, and of Uncle Seth pacing ceaselessly 
back and forth. 

Willie MacDougald slipped from place to place, laying 
and removing dishes. Now he was replenishing the glasses, 
- Gleazen's with port from a cut-glass decanter, Matter- 
son's with gin from a queer old blown-glass bottle with a 
tiny mouth, now he was scurrying forward, pursued by 
a volley of oaths, to get a new pepper for the grinder. 
Gleazen, always an able man at his food, said little and 
ate much ; but Matterson showed us that he could both 
eat and talk, for he consumed vast quantities of bread and 
meat, and all the while he discoursed so interestingly on 
one thing and another that, in spite of myself, I came 
fairly to hang upon his words. 

As in his incongruously effeminate voice he talked of 
men in foreign ports, and strangely rigged ships, and all 
manner of hairbreadth escapes, and described desperate 
fights that had occurred, he said, not a hundred miles 
from where at that moment we sat, I could fairly see the 
things he spoke of and hear the guns boom. He thrilled 
me by tales of wild adventure on the African coast and 
both fascinated and horrified me by stories of "the trade," 
as he called it. 

"Ah," he would say, so lightly that it was hard to be- 
lieve that the words actually came from that great bulk of 
a man, "I have seen them marching the niggers down to 
the sea, single file* through the jungle, chained one to an- 
other. Men, women and children, all marching along down 
to the barracoons, there's a sight for you ! Chained hand 
and foot they are, too, and horribly afraid until they're 
stuffed with rice and meat, and see that naught but good 's 
intended. They're cheery, then, aye, cheery 's the word." 

"Hm!" Gleazen grunted. 

"Aye, it's a grand sight to see 'em clap their hands 



MATTERSON 107 

and sing and gobble down the good stews and the rice. 
They're better off than ever they were before, and it don't 
take 'em long to learn that." 

Matterson cast a sidelong glance at me as he leaned 
back and sipped his gin, and Gleazen grunted again. 
Gleazen, too, I perceived, was singularly interested in see- 
ing how I took their talk. 

What they were really driving at, I had no clear idea ; 
but I soon saw that Arnold Lament, more keenly than I, 
had detected the purpose of Matterson's stories. 

"That," said he, slowly and precisely, "is very inter- 
esting. Has Mr. Gleazen likewise engaged in the slave 
trade?" 

There was something in his voice that caused the two of 
them to exchange quick glances. 

Gleazen looked hard at his wine glass and made no an- 
swer ; but Matterson, with a genial smile, replied : "Oh, I 
said nothing of engaging in the slave trade. I was just tell- 
ing of sights I 've seen in Africa, and I 've no doubt at all 
that Mr. Gleazen has seen the same sights, and merrier 



ones." 



"It is a wonderful thing," Arnold went on, in a grave 
voice, "to travel and see the world and know strange 
peoples. I have often wished that I could do so. Now I 
think that my wish is to be gratified." 

As before, there was something strangely suggestive in 
his voice. I puzzled over it and made nothing of it, yet I 
could no more ignore it than could Matterson and Gleazen, 
who again exchanged glances. 

When Matterson muttered a word or two in Spanish and 
Gleazen replied in the same language, I looked hard at 
Arnold to see if he understood. 

His expression gave no indication that he did, but I 
could not forget the words he had used long ago in Top- 



108 THE GREAT QUEST 

ham before ever I had suspected Neil Gleazen of being a 
whit other than he seemed. "A man," Arnold had said, 
"does not tell all he knows." There was no doubt in my 
mind that Arnold was a man in every sense of the word. 

Again Gleazen and Matterson spoke in Spanish ; then 
Matterson with a warm smile turned to us and said, 
"Will you have a glass of wine, lads? You, Arnold? No? 
And you, Joe? No?" He raised his eyebrows and with a 
deprecatory gesture glanced once more at Gleazen. 

I thought of Uncle Seth still pacing the quarter-deck. 
I suddenly realized that I was afraid of the two men who 
sat opposite me - - afraid to drink with them or even to 
continue to talk with them. My fear passed as a mood 
changes ; but in its place came the determination that I 
would not drink with them or talk with them. They were 
no friends of mine. I pushed back my chair, and, leaving 
Arnold below, went on deck. 



CHAPTER XI 

NEW LIGHT ON AN OLD FRIEND 

MY uncle was still pacing back and forth when I came 
out into the sunset ; then, almost at once, the twilight had 
come and gone, and I saw him as a deeper shadow moving 
up and down the deck, with only the faint sound of 
his feet to convince me that my eyes saw truly. The 
very monotony of his slow, even steps told me that 
there was no companionship to be got from him, and at 
that moment more than anything else I desired compan- 
ionship. 

What I then did was for me a new step. Leaving the 
quarter-deck, I went forward to the steerage and found 
Sim Muzzy smoking his pipe with the sailmaker. 

"So it's you," he querulously said, when he recognized 
me. "Now are n't you sorry you ever left Topham? If I 
had lost as much as you have by Seth Upham's going into 
his second childhood, I vow I'd jump overboard and be 
done with life. You're slow enough to look up your old 
friends, seems to me." 

"But," said I, impatiently, "I've been like to die of 
seasickness. I could n't look you up then, and you never 



came near me." 



"Oh, that's all very well for you to say, but you know 
I could n't come aft without a trouncing from that Neil 
Gleazen - - I'm sure I 'd like to see something awful hap- 
pen to him to pay him for breaking up the store ! - - and 
you've had plenty of time since. If I did n't show more 
fondness for my friends than you do, I'd at least have the 
good grace to stay away from them. You 've used me very 



110 THE GREAT QUEST 

shabbily indeed, Joe Woods, and I've got the spirit to 
resent it." 

The sailmaker, meanwhile, as if he were not listening 
with vast interest to all that Sim had to say against me, 
looked absently away and quietly smoked his pipe. But 
I imagined that I detected in his eyes a glint of amuse- 
ment at what he assumed to be my discomfiture, and an- 
gered as much by that as by Sim's petulance, I turned my 
back on the two and went on forward to the forecastle, 
where I found Abraham Guptil, sprawled full length, in 
quiet conversation with two shipmates. 

From Abe I got pleasanter greetings. 

"Here's Joe Woods," he cried, "one of the best friends 
Abe Guptil ever had. You had a hard voyage, did n't you, 
Joe ? I was sorry to hear you were so bad off. I 'd hoped to 
see more of you." 

I threw myself down beside Abe and fell to talking with 
him and the others about affairs aft and forward, such as 
Captain North and his quarrel with Seth Upham, and the 
meeting of Gleazen and Matterson, and Sim Muzzy and 
his irritating garrulousness, and a score of things that had 
happened among the crew. It was all so very friendly and 
pleasant, that I was sorry to leave them and go back to my 
stateroom, and I did so only when I was like to have 
fallen asleep in spite of myself. But on the quarter-deck, 
when I passed, I saw Seth Upham still pacing back and 
forth. He must have known that it was I, for I came close 
to him and spoke his name, yet he completely ignored my 
presence. 

How long he kept it up, I do not know ; looking over my 
shoulder, I saw last, as I went down the companionway, 
his stooped figure and bowed head moving like a shadow 
back and forth, and back and forth. Nor do I know just 
when my drowsy thoughts merged into dreams ; but it 
seems to me, as I look back upon that night, that my 



NEW LIGHT ON AN OLD FRIEND 111 

uncle's bent figure silently pacing the deck haunted me 
until dawn. Only when some noise waked me at day- 
break, and I crept up the companionway and found that 
he was no longer there, did I succeed in escaping from the 
spell. 

Returning to our stateroom to dress, I came upon 
Arnold Lament lying wide awake. 

"Joe," said he, when I was pulling on my clothes, " I am 
surprised to hear that Seth Upham ever believed Neil 
Gleazen to be aught but penniless." 

I turned and looked at him. How could Arnold have 
learned of the quarrel between Uncle Seth and Gleazen 
and Matterson, which only I had witnessed ? Or, if he had 
not learned of the quarrel and what transpired in the course 
of it, where had he heard the story of Gleazen's empty 
chests ? 

Perceiving my amazement, he smiled. "I know many 
things that happen on board this vessel, Joe," he said. 

"How much," I demanded, "do you know about what 
happened yesterday?" 

"Everything," said he. 

"But how?" I cried. I was at my wit's end with cu- 
riosity. 

"Listen!" 

I heard a quick step. 

"Joe," he whispered, "you must never tell. Crawl under 
your blankets and cover your head so no one can see that 
you are there." 

More puzzled, even, than before, I complied. What- 
ever Arnold had up his sleeve, I was convinced that he 
was not merely making game of me ; and, in truth, I had 
no sooner concealed myself hi my tumbled berth, w r hich 
was so deep that this was not hard to do, than a gentle 
tap sounded on the door. 

"Come in," Arnold said in a low voice. 



112 THE GREAT QUEST 



The door then opened and I heard hesitant steps. 

"Well ? " Arnold said, when I had heard the latch of the 
door click shut again. 

"If you please, sir," said a piping little voice, which I 
knew could come from only Willie MacDougald, "if you 
please, sir, they were laughing hearty at Mr. Upham most 
of the morning." 

"Yes?" 

"Yes, sir, and they said it was a shame for him to ruin 
his complexion by a-walking all night." 

"What else?" 

"Yes, sir, and he was asleep all morning - - at least, sir, 
he was in his berth, but I heard him groaning, sir." 

"Anything else?" 

"Yes, sir. They did n't seem to like the way you and 
Joe Woods acted about their stories of trading niggers, 
and they said - 

"Ha!" That Arnold rose suddenly, I knew by the 
creaking of his bunk. 

"And they said, sir ' Willie's voice fell as if he were 
afraid to go on. 

"Yes?" 

"And they said " 

"Yes, yes ! Come, speak out." 

"And they said " again Willie hesitated, then he con- 
tinued with a rush, but in a mere whisper - - "that they 
was going to get rid of you two." 

For a long time there was silence, then Arnold asked in 
the same low voice, "Have they laid their plans ?' : 

"They w r as talking of one thing and another, sir, but in 
such a way that I could n't hear." 

Again a long silence followed, which Willie MacDou- 
gald broke by saying, "Please, sir, it was to-day you was 
to pay me." 



NEW LIGHT ON AN OLD FRIEND 113 

"Ah, yes." 

I heard a clinking sound as if money were changing 
hands; then Willie MacDougald said, "Thank you, sir," 
and turned the latch. 

As he left the stateroom I could not forbear from stick- 
ing my head out of the blankets to look after him. He 
was so small, so young, seemingly so innocent ! Yet for all 
his innocence and high voice and respectful phrases, he had 
revealed a devilish spirit of hard bargaining by the tone 
and manner, if not the words, with which he demanded 
his pay ; and I was confounded when, as I looked after 
him, he turned, met my eyes, and instead of being dis- 
concerted, gave me a bold, impudent grimace. 

"He is a little devil," Arnold said with a smile. 

"Do you believe what he tells you?" 

" Yes, he does not dare lie to me." 

"But," said I, u what of his story that they intend to 
get rid of us?" 

Arnold smiled again. "I shall put it to good use." 

It was evident enough now where Arnold had learned 
of the quarrel ; and as I noted anew his level,, fearless gaze, 
his clear eyes, and his erect, commanding carriage, I again 
recalled his words, who could forget them? "A man 
does not tell all he knows." More and more I was coming 
to realize how little we of Topham had known the manner 
of man that this Frenchman truly was. 

It was with a paradoxical sense of security, a new con- 
fidence in my old friend, that I accompanied Arnold to 
breakfast in the great cabin, where two vacant places and 
three plates still laid showed that Gleazen and Matterson 
had long since come and gone, and that Seth Upham was 
still keeping aloof in his own quarters. But little Willie 
MacDougald, appearing as ever a picture of childish in- 
nocence, assiduously waited on us; and before we were 



114 THE GREAT QUEST 

through, Matterson came below, flung his great body 
into a chair and, calling for gin, settled himself for a 
friendly chat. 

"Yes, lads," he said in his oddly light voice, "I've de- 
cided to cast my lot with you. I 'm going to ship as mate. 
Not that I feel I ought, I really scarce can afford the 
time for a voyage now, but Neil Gleazen and Seth 
Upham would n't hear to my not going." 

He broadly grinned at me, for he knew well that I had 
heard every word that passed between the three the day 
before. 

"Well, lads," he went on, "it's a great country we're 
going to, and there's great adventures ahead. Yes, 'he 
spoke now with a sort of humorous significance, as if he 
were playing boldly with an idea and enjoying it simply 
because he was confident that we could not detect what 
lay behind it, "Yes, there's great adventures ahead. 
It's queer, but even here in Cuba a young man never 
knows what 's going to overtake him next. I 've seen young 
fellows, w r ith their plans all laid, switched sudden to quite 
another set of plans that no one, no, sir, not no one ever 
thought they'd tumble into. It's mysterious. Yes, sir, 
mysterious it is." 

That there was a double meaning behind all this talk, I 
had no doubt whatever, and it irritated me that he should 
tease us as if we were little children ; but I could make no 
particular sense of what he said, except so far as Willie 
MacDougald's tale served to indicate that it was a threat ; 
and Arnold Lament, apparently not a whit disturbed, con- 
tinued his meal with great composure and, whatever he 
may have thought, gave no sign to enlighten me. 

We had so little to say to Matterson in reply, that he 
soon left us, and for another day we sat idle on deck or 
amused ourselves as best we could. The crew had num- 



NEW LIGHT ON AN OLD FRIEND 115 

berless duties to perform, such as painting and caulking 
and working on the rigging. Arnold Lament and Sun 
Muzzy got out the chessmen and played for hours, while 
Matterson watched them with an interest so intent that I 
suspected him of being himself a chess-player ; and Gleazen 
and Uncle Seth intermittently played at cards. So the day 
passed, until in the early evening a boat hailed us, and a 
sailor came aboard and said that Captain Jones of the 
Merry Jack and Eleanor sent his compliments to Mr. 
Upham and Mr. Gleazen and would be glad to have all the 
gentlemen come visiting and share a bowl of punch, at 
making which his steward had an excellent hand. 

My uncle seized upon the invitation with alacrity, for it 
seemed that he had met Captain Jones in Havana two 
days since. He called to Gleazen and Matterson, saying 
with something of his old sharp, pompous manner that 
they certainly must come, too, and that he was going also 
to bring Arnold, Sim, and me, at which, I perceived, the 
two exchanged smiles. 

Sim came running aft, ready to complain at the slight- 
est provocation, but too pleased with the prospect of an 
outing to burst forth on no grounds at all ; Neil Gleazen 
and my uncle led the way toward the quarter-boat in 
which we were to go ; and Arnold followed them. 

It did not escape me that both Gleazen and Matterson 
had held their tongues since the sailor delivered his 
master's invitation, and that, as they passed me, they ex- 
changed nudges. I was all but- tempted into staying on 
board the Adventure. As I meditated on Willie Mac- 
Dougald's story, and Matterson's allusions, how signi- 
ficant they were, I could not know, the silence of the 
two alarmed me more than direct threats would have done. 
Why should Gleazen and Matterson look at each other and 
smile when all the rest all, that is, except myself 



116 THE GREAT QUEST 

were going down by the chains ahead of them? Would 
they not, unless they had known more than we about this 
Captain Jones and his ship, the Merry Jack and Eleanor, 
have asked questions, or perhaps even have declined to go ? 

Whatever my thoughts, I had no chance to express 
them ; so over the side I went, close after the rest, and 
down into the boat where the sailors waited at their oars. 
To none of us did it occur that it was in any way contrary 
to the usual etiquette to take Sim Muzzy with us. Except 
that force of circumstances had placed him in the steerage, 
his position aboard the Adventure was the same as Ar- 
nold's and mine, or even Gleazen's, for that matter. 

Poor Sim ! For once he forgot to complain and came 
with us as gayly as the fly that walked into the spider's 
parlor. And yet I now hold the opinion, - 1 was a long, 
long time in coming to it, that after all fate was very 
kind to Simeon Muzzy. 

He settled himself importantly in the boat and began 
to talk a blue streak, as the saying is, about one thing and 
another, until I would almost have tossed him overboard. 
Uncle Seth, too, frowned at him, and the strange sailors 
smiled, and Gleazen and Matterson spoke together in 
Spanish and laughed as if they shared a lively joke. But 
Arnold Lament leaned back and half closed his eyes and 
appeared to hear nothing of what was going on. 

All the way to the Merry Jack and Eleanor, which lay 
about a quarter of a mile from the Adventure, Gleazen and 
Matterson continued at intervals to exchange remarks in 
Spanish ; and although Uncle Seth and Arnold Lament 
completely ignored them, Sim, who by now had got so 
used to foreign tongues that they no longer astonished and 
confused him, took it hard that he could make nothing of 
what they said and went into a lively tantrum about it, 
at which the strange sailors chuckled as they rowed. 



NEW LIGHT OX AN OLD FRIEND 117 

Passing under the counter of the vessel, we continued to 
the gangway ; but just as we came about the stern, Arnold 
touched my hand and by a motion so slight as to pass al- 
most unnoticed drew my attention to a man-of-war that 
lay perhaps a cable's length away. 

Under cover of the loud exchange of greetings and the 
bustle that occurred when the others were going aboard, 
he whispered, "We are safe for the time being. See ! Yon- 
der is a frigate. But either you or I must stay on deck, and 
if there is aught of an outcry below, he must call for help 
in such a way that there shall be no doubt of its coming." 

"What do you mean?" I whispered. 

"Hush ! They are watching us." 

As we followed the others, Arnold stopped by the bul- 
wark and half leaned, half fell, against it. 

"Pardon me, gentlemen," he said in that slow, precise 
voice, "For the moment I am ill. It is a mere attack of 
dizziness, but I dare not go below. I must stay in the open 
air. I beg you will pardon me. I intend no rudeness." 

His face did look pale in the half-light, and the others, 
whatever their suspicions may have been, said nothing to 
indicate that they doubted him. When Captain Jones of 
the Merry Jack and Eleanor came toward us a second 
time and again with oily courtesy asked us all to the 
cabin, Gleazen and Matterson made excuses for Arnold, 
and the rest of us went down into the gloomy space below 
and left him in the gangway whence he could watch the 
hills, which were now dark against the evening sky, and 
the black masts of the frigate, which stood by like sentries 
guarding our lives and fortunes. 

There was a fetid, sickening odor about the ship, such as 
I had never before experienced, and the cabin reeked of 
rum and tobacco. The skipper had the face of a human 
brute, and the mate's right hand was twisted all out of 



118 THE GEEAT QUEST 

shape, as if some heavy weapon had once smashed the 
bones of it. The more I looked about the dark, low cabin, 
and the more I saw and heard of the skipper and his mate, 
the more I wished I were on deck with Arnold. But the 
punch was brewed in a colossal bowl and gave forth a 
fragrance of spices, and Sun Muzzy drank with the rest, 
and for a while the five of them were as jolly as the name of 
the ship would indicate. 



CHAPTER XII 

CAPTAIN NORTH AGAIN 

FIRST there was talk of old times, for it seemed that 
Matterson and Gleazen and Captain Jones were friends of 
long standing. Then there was talk of strange wars and 
battles, particularly of one battle of Insamankow, of 
which neither Gleazen nor Matterson had had other news 
than that which Captain Jones now gave them, and in 
which it seemed that the British had met with great dis- 
aster, although it puzzled me to know wherein such a 
battle even remotely concerned any of us. After that there 
was talk of various other things a murderous plague of 
smallpox that years before had swept the African coast, a 
war between the Fantis and Ashantis, a cruiser that they, 
with oaths and laughter, said had struck her flag in battle 
with a slaver, a year's journey with desert caravans that 
traded with the Arabs, and last of all, and apparently 
most important, curious ways of circumventing the laws 
of England and America and of bribing Cuban officers of 
low degree and high. 

All this, in a stuffy little place where the mingled smells 
of rum and spices and tobacco hung heavily on the air as 
they grew stale, filled me with disgust and almost with 
nausea. Vile oaths slipped out between each two sen- 
tences, if by rare chance they were not woven into the 
very warp of the sentences themselves ; such stories of bar- 
barous and unbelievable cruelty were told and retold as I 
cannot bear to call to mind, to say nothing of repeating ; 
and always I was aware of that sickening odor, now strong, 
now weak, which I had detected before we went below. 



120 THE GREAT QUEST 

The first sign that the others gave of noticing it was 
when Gleazen threw back his head and cried, "Pfaw! 
What a stench ! The smell is all I have against the trade." 

Matterson laughed, and Captain Jones with his grand 
manner said, " You have been too long away from it, Mr. 
Gleazen." 

' ' Too long ? That 's as may be. An old horse settles easy 
into harness again." 

Captain Jones smiled. With apparent irrelevance, but 
with a reminiscent air, he said; "Too long or no, it's a 
long time since first we met, a long, long time, and yet 
I remember as yesterday what a night we had of it. It be- 
gan when that blasted Frenchman slipped his cables and 
sought to beat us up the river. It was you, Gleazen, that 
saved us then. When your message came, with what 
haste we landed the boats and towed the old brig straight 
up stream! Row? We rowed like the devil, and though 
our palms peeled, we won the race. It was a good cargo 
you had waiting, too. Only seven died in the passage." 

In the passage ! Already I had suspected, now I knew, 
that the ship with her fast lines and cruel officers was none 
other than a slaver ; that the smell was the stench of a 
slave-ship ; that in that very cabin men had bartered for 
human beings. If I could, I would have turned my back 
on them there and then ; the repugnance that I had long 
felt grew into downright loathing. What would I not have 
given to be up and away with Arnold Lament ! But I was 
a mere stripling, alone, so far as help was concerned, in a 
den of villains crueler than wolves. Though I would 
eagerly have left them, I dared not ; and almost at once 
something happened that in any case would have held me 
where I was. 

Gleazen leaned across the punch-bowl and said to Cap- 
tain Jones : "Who is there in port will make a good captain 



CAPTAIN NORTH AGAIN 121 

for a smart brig with a neat bow, swift to sail and clever 
to work?" 

Captain Jones ran his fingers through his stiff, shaggy 
hair. "Now, let me see," he replied, "there 's a man - 

Cutting him sharply off, my uncle spoke up, "Gentle- 
men, I will choose the master of my own vessel." 

I knew by his voice that he, as well as I, was sickened by 
the situation in which we found ourselves. Poor Uncle 
Seth, I thought, how little did he suspect, when he united 
his fortune with the golden dreams of Neil Gleazen, that 
he was to travel such a road as this ! 

"Ah!" said Gleazen. "And who will it be?" An un- 
kind smile played around his mouth. 

"Gideon North, if he will come back to us," said my 
uncle. 

"Ah!" Matterson, Gleazen, and Captain Jones ex- 
claimed as if with one breath. 

For a minute or so the three sat in silence, looking hard 
at the top of the table ; then Matterson with a queer twist 
of his lips spoke in Spanish. When, after another silence, 
the captain of the Merry Jack and Eleanor answered at 
length in the same tongue, Matterson responded briefly, 
and all three men nodded. 

A quality so curiously and subtly dramatic pervaded 
the scene that I remember thinking, as I looked about, 
what a rare theme it would have made for a painter. I 
believe that a skillful artist, if he had studied the faces of 
us all as we sat there, could have put our characters on 
his canvas so faithfully that he would have been in danger 
of paying for his honesty with his life, had Matterson or 
the strange captain had a chance at him in the dark. The 
very place in which we sat smelled of villainies, and the 
rat-like captain of the ship was a fit master of such a den. 

Gleazen now turned to my uncle. "Very well," said he, 



122 THE GREAT QUEST 

with an amused smile, " Joe, here, and Arnold Lamont are 
in good odor with him. Suppose, then, that we let them 
go ashore and hunt him out and talk matters over. I've 
no doubt he'll come back. He went off in a tantrum, as a 
man will when he takes pepper up his nose. You must 
know where the fellow's staying. You were to send him 
the money due him. Captain Jones will lend them one of 
his boats for now, and I'll have our boat ready to take 
them all off together in, say, three hours' time." 

As I have said in an earlier chapter of this narrative, by 
inclination I was a dreamer ; and yet I must have been 
more than a mere dreamer, and worse, not to have scented 
by those dark looks and cryptic words some trouble or 
other afoot. It was as if for a long time I had seen the 
three to be united definitely against us, but as if I now for 
the first time perceived what a desperately black and sin- 
ful alliance they made it was as if the spectacle struck 
me into a daze. When Gleazen finished, the other two 
again nodded, and in the very manner of their nods there 
was something as cold and deliberate as a snake's eye. 
Had I been able to rely upon the impressions of the mo- 
ment, I should have said that time stood as still as the sun 
upon Gibeon ; that for many minutes we stared at one an- 
other in mutual suspicion ; that the beating of my heart 
had all but ceased. But the impressions of the moment 
deceived me. 

When Gleazen stopped speaking, he hit with his elbow 
the ink-bottle that stood on the table. It tipped on its 
side, rolled deliberately across the table, and fell ; but be- 
fore it struck the floor, Matterson, leaning out with a 
swift, dexterous motion, caught it, tried the stopper, and 
murmured as if to himself, " There's luck for you ! Not a 
drop is lost." In the time it had taken that bottle to roll 
across the table, and not a second more, I had suffered 
that untold suspense. 



CAPTAIN NORTH AGAIN 123 

Now the spell was shattered, and hearing someone 
speaking in an undertone behind me, I turned and caught 
Captain Jones in the act of giving instructions in Spanish 
to his negro steward. 

I was surprised and angry. Though of late I had heard 
much Spanish, it seemed to me that to speak it under the 
circumstances was so rude as to verge on open affront. 
Then Uncle Seth, gulping down his astonishment that 
Gleazen should so readily accede to his wishes, spoke up 
for himself ; and because I was so deeply interested in 
whatever he might have to say, I turned my back on the 
mungo, ceased to watch Captain Jones, and did not no- 
tice that the steward went immediately on deck. Nor did 
I attribute any significance to the sound of oars bumping 
against the pins, which I soon afterwards heard. Had not 
Arnold Lament been waiting on deck with his eyes fixed 
apparently on the dark outline of the frigate, my stupid- 
ity must have cost us even more than it did. 

"Very well," said Uncle Seth. "I will do as you sug- 
gest." 

" Perhaps," said Gleazen, thoughtfully, "Sim Muzzy, 
here, would like to go." 

"Oh, yes," cried Sun, "I'm fair dying for a trip on dry 
land. Yes, indeed, I'd like to go. I'd like it mightily. 
You've always said, Mr. Gleazen, I was too thick to do 
harm. Oh, yes indeed!" 

Matterson smiled and Captain Jones covered his mouth 
with his hand, but Gleazen gravely nodded. 

"Well, Sim, go you shall," said he. "There ain't one of 
us here but is glad to see an honest man take his fling 
ashore, and Havana's a city for you. Such handsome 
women as ride about in their carriages ! And such sights 
as you '11 see in the streets ! You '11 be a wiser man e'er you 
come back to us, Sim. I swear, I 'd like to go myself, but 
not to-night ! I ain't one to neglect business for pleasure." 



124 THE GREAT QUEST 

When he shot a glance at Matterson and Captain Jones, 
my eyes followed his, and I saw that once more they had 
fixed their gaze on the top of the table. Now I was actu- 
ally unable, so baffling had been their change of front, to 
make up my mind whether they were to be suspected or to 
be trusted. 

"Well," said Gleazen, "we are all agreed. Lay down 
your orders, Seth. They'll carry them out to the last 
letter." 

So Uncle Seth told me where to find Gideon North, and 
Neil Gleazen wrote it on a paper, in Spanish, mind 
you ! - - and they put their heads together, every one, to 
think up such arguments as would induce Captain North 
to return, all with an appearance of enthusiasm that 
amazed me and might easily have put my suspicions to 
shame but for those other things that had happened. 

"I'll be civil to him," Gleazen cried. "And you can tell 
him, too, that this is an honest voyage. We're to run no 
race with the king's cruisers, Joe." 

"Aye," Captain Jones put in, "an able vessel and an 
honest voyage." 

"With a mountain of treasure to be got," added Mat- 
terson. 

The three spoke so gravely and straightforwardly now, 
that I wondered at their insolence ; and as Sim and I got 
up to go, not yet quite believing that in reality, and not 
in a dream, we were being dispatched into the heart of 
that strange city, they accompanied us on deck and told 
Arnold Lamont that he was to go with us on our errand, 
and saw us safely started in the long boat of the Merry 
Jack and Eleanor before returning to their punch. 

I could see that Arnold had no liking for the mission, 
but while we were in the boat he gave me no explanation 
of his uneasiness. Indeed, Sim Muzzy talked so much and 



CAPTAIN NORTH AGAIN 125 

so fast that, when he once got started, you could scarcely 
have thrust the point of a needle into his monologue. 

" She's a slaver," he murmured as we pulled away from 
the Merry Jack and Eleanor. "A cruel-hearted slaver! 
Thank heaven, we're never to have a hand in any such 
iniquity as that." 

We looked back at the ship, black and gloomy against 
the sky, with many men moving about on her deck. 

"You're a silly fool," one of the oarsmen cried, having 
overheard him, "a man without stomach, heart, or good 
red blood." 

"Stomach, is it?" Sim retorted. "I'll have you know 
I eat my three hearty meals a day and they set well too. 
I can eat as much victuals as the next man. Why 
And there was no stopping him till the boat bumped 
against a wharf and we three stepped out. 

The boat, I noticed, instead of putting back to the ship, 
waited by the wharf. 

I turned and looked at the restless harbor, on which each 
light was reflected as a long, tremulous finger of flame that 
reached almost to my feet, at the sky, in which the stars 
were now shining, and at the anchored ships, each with 
her own story, could one but have read it ; then I yielded 
to Sim's importunate call and in the darkness turned after 
him and Arnold. What reason was there to suspect that 
Simeon Muzzy and I stood at a crossroads where our 
paths divided? 

Coming to the street, we stopped, and in the light from 
an open window put our heads together over the paper 
that Gleazen had written out and given to us with in- 
structions to show it to the first person we met and turn 
where he pointed. 

"Why, it's all in foreigner's talk!" Sim exclaimed. 

"Let me see it," said Arnold. 



126 THE GEE AT QUEST 

He looked at it a long time and smiled. "I wonder," he 
said, "do they think we are so very simple ?" 

Now a man came toward us. Before he could pass, 
Arnold stepped suddenly forward and addressed him in 
Spanish. 

"Why," cried I, when the passerby had gone, "you, too 
do you talk Spanish? " 

Arnold turned to me with a smile and said, for the sec- 
ond time, "A man does not tell all he knows." 

Thrusting the paper into his pocket, he continued, "Ac- 
cording to the directions that Mr. Gleazen has written 
down for our guidance, my friends, we should turn to the 
right. But according to my personal knowledge, which that 
man confirmed, we shall find Gideon North by turning to 
the left." 

To the left, then, we turned ; and only Arnold Lament, 
who told me of it afterward, saw one of the boatmen, when 
we had definitely taken OUT course, leave the boat and run 
into the darkness in the direction that Neil Gleazen wished 
to send us. 

Carriages passed us, and men on horseback, and negroes 
loitering along the streets. There were bright lights in the 
windows ; and we saw ladies and their escorts riding in 
queer two-wheeled vehicles that I later learned were called 
volantes. 

All was strange and bizarre and extraordinarily inter- 
esting. Never did three men from a little country village 
in New England find themselves in a more utterly foreign 
city. But although Sun and I had our eyes open for every 
new sight, I was nevertheless aware that Arnold was more 
alert than either of us, and twice he urged us to keep our 
eyes and wits about us. 

Seeing nothing to fear, I inclined to smile at him. I now 
assumed that I was the bolder and more sophisticated of 



CAPTAIN NORTH AGAIN 127 

the two of us. As we tramped along in the darkness, I 
got over the sense of unreality and felt as much at home 
in that alien city as if I had been back in the familiar 
streets and lanes of Boston. 

Three times Arnold stopped to inquire the way ; and the 
last time the man of whom he asked directions pointed at 
a house not a hundred yards distant and said, with a bow, 
"It is there, senor." 

That he spoke in English, which he had heard Sim and 
me use, so surprised us that for the moment we were off 
our guard. I was vaguely aware of hearing many feet 
trampling along, and afterwards I realized that I had ab- 
sently noticed the rumble of voices ; but the city was all 
so strange that I thought nothing of either the feet or the 
voices, and gave all my attention to the stranger. He was 
turning away, bowing and protesting his pleasure in serv- 
ing us, when Sim Muzzy said in a wondering tone, "Why, 
Arnold, Joe, how many people there are hereabouts ! 
Look there!" 

Arnold, turning as the poor fellow spoke, seized my 
arm. "Mon dieu!" he gasped, startled into his native 
French. Then in English he cried, "Quick, Joe! Quick! 
Vile I Ha! Strike out, Sim, strike!" 

Around us there were indeed many men. They were ap- 
proaching us from ahead and behind. Suddenly, fiercely, 
three or four of them rushed at us. 

From his belt Arnold drew a knife and thrust at a man 
who had caught my collar. I lost no tune in leaping free. 

Two of them, now, were upon Arnold, crying out hi 
Spanish ; but he eluded them by a quick turn. 

I first saw him spring out of their reach, then an arm, 
flung round my throat, cut my wind. As I throttled, I 
saw Arnold come charging back again, knife in hand. The 
blade slashed past my ear so closely that it cut the skin ; 



128 THE GREAT QUEST 

something spurted over my neck and the back of my head, 
and the arm that held me fell. 

Arnold, his hand on my shoulder, dragged me free. 
Stooping, he picked up a stone and hurled it into the midst 
of our assailants, eliciting a screech of pain and anger. 
When I bent to follow his example, I saw a chance light 
flash on his knife-blade. But where, I thought, is Sim? 
Then, somewhere in the crowd, I heard him choking and 
gagging. My first impulse was to rush to his rescue, but 
instantly I saw the folly of such a course, so greatly were 
we outnumbered. For a moment Arnold and I held them 
off. Just behind us was a street corner. As we darted 
toward it, one man dashed out from the crowd, the rest 
followed, and a second tune, with hoarse shouts, they 
charged down upon us. They came in a solid phalanx, 
but we rounded the corner and fled. At top speed we 
raced down the street and round a second corner. Dis- 
tancing them for the moment, but with their yells ringing 
in our ears, we scrambled up over a wrought-iron gate 
that gave us hold for fingers and feet, through a garden 
rich with palms and statuary, over another gate and 
across still another street. There we scaled one gate more, 
and throwing ourselves down in some dense vines, lay 
quietly and got back our breath, while our eluded pur- 
suers raced and called on the street outside. 

The last thing I had heard as we ran was poor Sim 
Muzzy screaming for help. 

"Who - - wh-wh-o wh-what were th-they?" I 
gasped out. 

"I believe it to have been a press-gang," Arnold replied. 
He, too, was gasping for breath, but he better controlled 
his voice. 

After a time he added, "Poor Sun ! I fear that he is now 
on his way into the service of the royal navy of Spain." 



CAPTAIN NORTH AGAIN 129 

"But," I returned, "they cannot hold an American 
citizen." 

" Lawfully," said he, "they cannot." 

"Then we'll soon have Sim out again." 

To this, he did not reply. He said merely, "You and I, 
Joe, must keep it a secret between us that I speak their 
language." 

We lay a long time in the garden, with the stars shining 
above us and yellow lights streaming out of the house, and 
I thought of how skillfully Arnold Lamont had concealed 
his interest in what Gleazen and Matterson had said in a 
language they thought none of us could understand. But 
when the racing and shouting had gone, and come, and 
gone again, and when we both were convinced that all 
danger was past, we rose and stretched ourselves and went 
up to the house and knocked. 

As the door swung open, a flood of light poured out into 
the garden ; but we saw only an old negro, who stood like 
a black shadow in our way and assailed us with a broad- 
side of angry Spanish. His gray head shook with fury, I 
suppose at finding us in the garden, and he spread his 
arms to keep us from entering the house. Behind him 
arose a hubbub, and an angry white man came rushing 
out. When to his fierce questions Arnold shot back 
prompt answers, his anger died, and tolerance took its 
place, and finally a wave of cordiality swept over his face. 
Stepping back he actually flung the door wide open and 
with stately bows ushered us into the high-studded hall. 
Then the negro went bustling down the passage and spoke 
in a low voice, and I was amazed beyond measure to see 
Gideon North himself step out of a lighted room. 

In our flight Arnold, shrewd, quick to think and to act, 
had led us to the garden hi the rear of the very house of 
which we had come in search. 



130 THE GREAT QUEST 

"Well," said Captain North, when, after warm greet- 
ings and quick explanations, we were seated together be- 
hind closed doors, "of all that rascally crew in tht cabin 
of the Adventure, you two are the only ones I should be 
glad to see again. How hi the name of Beelzebub, prince 
of devils, did you light upon my lodging-house, and what 
has brought you here?" 

Now Gleazen had suggested various arguments by 
which to bring Captain North back to his command, and 
not the least of them was an apology of a kind from him- 
self ; but they had all lacked sincerity, and as I knew well 
enough that Gleazen really would be very sorry if we 
should succeed in our errand, I had wisely determined to 
have none of them. It is exceedingly doubtful, however, 
if I should have dared to speak quite as plainly as did 
Arnold Lament. 

"Sir," he said, "we have come on a strange errand. We 
ask you to return to a ship where you have suffered in- 
dignities, to resume a command that you have resigned 
under just provocation, to help a man who, I fear, has 
forfeited every right to call upon you for help." 

"I'm no hand for riddles," said Gideon North. "Talk 
plain sea-talk." 

"Sir," said Arnold, "I ask you to come back as captain 
of the Adventure, to save Seth Upham from his - - friends." 
Arnold smiled slightly. 

"Blast Upham and his friends !" 

"As you will. But that pair of leeches will get the blood 
from his heart, and Joe Woods, his heir, will lose every 
penny of his inheritance." 

"Upham should have thought of that before. Leave 
him alone. He lies in the bed he made." 

"He, poor man, does not think of it now. Indeed, I fear 
he's beyond saving." 



CAPTAIN NORTH AGAIN 131 

Gideon North got up and went to the barred windows 
that opened upon the street. 

"What is this wild-goose chase?" he suddenly de- 
manded. 

"Exactly what the object is I do not know," Arnold re- 
plied. "They talk of a treasure, but they are fit to rule an 
empire of liars. They are not, I believe, equipped for the 
slave trade, though of that you are a better judge than I. " 

Still Gideon North stood by the window. Without 
turning his head, he remarked, "I wonder why they want 
me back." 

"They?" At that Arnold laughed. " They do not want 
you. Not they ! Seth Upham insisted against their every 
wish. We came to your door with a press-gang at our 
heels. They planned that Joe and I should share Sim 
Muzzy's fate and never see you again - - or them." 

Thereupon Captain North turned about. 

"I am interested," he said. "Aye, and tempted." 

He stood for a while musing on all he had heard ; then 
he smiled in a way that gave me confidence. 

"We are three honest men with one purpose," he said ; 
' but Gleazen and Matterson are a pair of double-dyed 
villains. I go into this affair knowing that it is at the risk 
of my life, but so help me ! I'll take the plunge." 

After a pause he added, "You spend the night with me, 
lads, and we will go on board together in the morning. 
That alone will give 'em a pretty start, for I 've no doubt 
they think already that they 're well rid of the three of us, 
and by sun-up they'll be sure of it. What's more, we '11 go 
armed, lads, knives in our belts and pistols in our boots." 



CHAPTER XIII 
ISSUES SHARPLY DRAWN 

WE breakfasted next morning with Gideon North, and 
discussed in particular Gleazen and Matterson and in 
general affairs on board the Adventure. It seemed ages ago 
that I had first seen Gleazen on the porch of the old tav- 
ern in Topham. I told all I knew of how he had come to 
town and had won the confidence of so many people, of 
how the blacksmith alone had stood out against him, and 
of how that last wild night had justified the blacksmith in 
every word that he had uttered. 

Then Arnold Lament took up the story and told of 
scores of things that I had not perceived : little incidents 
that his keen eyes had detected, such as secret greetings 
passed between Gleazen and men with whom he pretended 
to have nothing whatever to do ; chance phrases that I, 
too, had overheard, but that only Arnold's native shrewd- 
ness had translated aright ; until I blushed with shame to 
think how great had been my own vanity and conceit 
- 1 who thought I had known so much, but really had 
known so little ! 

Then Captain North in blunt language told of things 
that had happened on board the Adventure, which made 
Uncle Seth out to be a poor, helpless dupe, and ended by 
saying vigorously, "Seth Upham is truly in a bad way, 
what with Gleazen and Matterson ; and brave lads though 
you are, you're not their kind. Unless you two were 
smarter than human, they'd get you in the end, for they're 
cruel men, with no regard for human life, and the odds are 
all in their favor ; but three of us in the cabin is quite an- 



ISSUES SHARPLY DRAWN 133 

other matter. We'll see what we can do to turn the cat in 
the pan. 

"And now," -he pushed his dishes away and set his 
elbows on the table, "now for facts to work upon. The 
pair of them are going to Africa with a purpose. Am I not 
right?" 

The question required no answer, but Arnold and I both 
nodded. 

"A cargo's all well and good, and they've no objection 
to turning an honest dollar, just because it's honest ; but 
there's more than honest dollars in this kettle of fish." 

Again we nodded. 

"Now, then, my lads, let me tell you this : when they've 
got what they want in Africa, whatever it may be, when 
they've squeezed Seth Upham's last dollar out of his wal- 
let, when they no longer need honest men on board to 
protect them from cruising men-o'-war, then, lads, they're 
going to throw you and me to the sharks. As yet, it is too 
soon to strike against them. The odds are in their favor 
still, and as far as we're concerned there's no hope in 
Seth Upham, for they 've got him twirling on a spit. It 
is for us, lads, to go through with them to the very end, 
to walk up and shake hands with death and the devil if 
worst comes to worst, but to be ready always to strike 
when the iron 's hot, aye, to strike till the sparks fly 
white." 

So there we sealed our compact, Arnold Lamont and 
Gideon North and I, with no vows and with scant asser- 
tions, but with a completeness of understanding and ac- 
cord that gave us, every one, unquestioning confidence in 
each of our associates. The fate of poor Sim Muzzy, which 
Arnold and I had so narrowly escaped, was still perilously 
close at hand ; and in returning to the brig, which Gideon 
North had left in anger, we shared a common danger that 



134 THE GREAT QUEST 

bound our alliance more firmly than any pledge would have 
bound it. 

Our breakfast eaten, we sorted over some pistols that 
Captain North had ordered sent from a shop, and chose, 
each of us, a pair, for which our host insisted on standing 
scot ; then he paid the bill for his lodgings, and, armed 
against whatever the future might bring, and firmly 
resolved that Gleazen and Matterson should not beat us 
in a matter of wits, we went into the street. 

The day was beautiful almost beyond belief, and the 
streets of Havana were full of wonderful sights ; but with 
the memory of poor Sun's sad fate in mind, and with our 
hearts set on the long contest that we must wage, we saw 
little of what went on around us. Followed by two negroes, 
who between them carried Captain North's bag, we boldly 
marched three abreast down through the city to the har- 
bor-side, w r here we hailed a boatman and hired him to take 
us out to the brig. 

Coming up to the gangway, Captain North loudly 
called, " Ahoy there!" 

There was a rush to the side of the brig, and a dozen 
faces looked down at us ; but none of them were the faces 
that we most desired to see. 

"Ho!" Captain North exclaimed, "they're not here. 
You there, pass a line, and step lively. Two of you bear 
a hand to lift this bag on board." 

At that moment we heard steps, and a newcomer ap- 
peared at the rail. It was Cornelius Gleazen. As he stared 
at us without a word, he appeared to be the most surprised 
man that ever I had seen. 

"Good-morning, Mr. Gleazen," Captain North called. 
"I've got your messages and thank you kindly. I recip- 
rocate all good wishes and I 'm sure when anyone comes 
out with a handsome apology, I'm no man to bear a 



ISSUES SHARPLY DRAWN 135 

grudge. I resume command with no hard feelings. Good- 



morning, sir. 



By that time he was on deck and advancing aft. 

I had already seen Cornelius Gleazen in some extraordi- 
nary situations, and later I was to see him in certain situa- 
tions beside which the others paled to milk and water, but 
never at any other time, from the moment when I first saw 
him on the porch at the tavern until the day when we 
parted not to meet again this side of Judgment, did I see 
Cornelius Gleazen affected in just the way that he was af- 
fected then. 

He backed away from Captain North, replied loudly as 
if in greeting, still backed away, and finally turned and 
went below, where evidently he recovered his powers of 
speech, for up came my uncle with Matterson at his heels. 

"Captain North," Uncle Seth cried, meeting him with 
right hand outstretched, "I declare I'm glad you're back 
again, and I 'm sure that all will go well from this time on." 

There was real pathos in Uncle Seth's eagerness to se- 
cure the friendship of the stout captain. In his straight- 
forward, confiding manner there was no suggestion of his 
old sharpness and pompousness. To see him looking from 
one of us to another, so frankly pleased that we had re- 
turned, you could not have failed to know that he was 
sincere, and if any of us had had the least suspicion that 
Seth Upham had condoned the scheme to have us fall 
into the hands of the press-gang, he lost it there and then 
forever. 

"But where," he cried, glancing down the deck, "where 
is Sim Muzzy ? " 

Matterson came a step nearer. I saw some of the sail- 
ors look curiously at one another. A stir ran along the 
deck. 

It was Gideon North who replied. "I am told," he said 



130 THE GREAT QUEST 

deliberately, letting his eyes wander from face to face, 
"that he has fallen into the clutches of a press-gang." 

"What!" 

"A press-gang. But of that, Lament, here, can tell you 
better than I." 

And Arnold, in his precise, subtly foreign way, told all 
that had happened. 

Completely stunned, my poor uncle went to the rail and 
buried his face in his hands. 

As for Matterson, he shook hands with Captain North 
and nodded at the rest of us impartially. 

" I 'm glad to see you back, sir," he said. "As you know, 
without doubt, I've shipped as chief mate." 

"You've what?" Captain North thundered, looking up 
at the big man before him. 

"Shipped as chief mate, sir." 

"Is this true? " the captain demanded, turning on Uncle 
Seth. 

"It is," my uncle replied like a man just waking. "Mr. 
Gleazen and I talked it over - 

Captain North interrupted him without ceremony. 
"Well," said he to Matterson, "I've no doubt you'll make 
a competent officer." 

His abruptness left Matterson no excuse for replying ; 
so, when the captain went below, the chief mate stepped 
over to the rail. There, frowning slightly now and then, he 
remained for a long time. It did not take Arnold Lament's 
intuition to perceive that he, as well as Gleazen, was puz- 
zled and disappointed by the way things had turned out. 



CHAPTER XIV 

LAND HO ! 

WITH Captain North back on board again, we felt great 
confidence for the future ; and while we remained in Ha- 
vana there was no other attempt, so far as I know, to do 
us harm. But there was that in the wind which kept us 
always uneasy ; and at no time after the night when Sim 
Muzzy left us, never to return to the brig Adventure, did 
we have a moment of complete security. 

Every one asked questions about poor Sun, and by 
the way the various ones received our answers they indi- 
cated much of their own attitude toward us. Abe Guptil 
was moved almost to tears, and most of the men forward 
shook their heads sympathetically, although in my pres- 
ence, since I was not one of them, they said little. But 
Matterson would smile with a certain unkind satisfaction, 
and Neil Gleazen would laugh softly, and here and there 
some one or other of the men would make sly jests or cast 
sidelong glances at Arnold and me. 

Of all the men on board, Seth Upham was conspicuously 
the most disturbed ; and as he gloomily paced the deck, 
a practice he continued even after Captain North had re- 
turned, I heard him more than once murmuring to him- 
self, "Sim, Sim, O my poor Sim ! Into what a plight I have 
led you!" 

Arnold and I suggested hi the cabin that we send out a 
searching party to see what we could learn of Sim's fate, 
and Uncle Seth urged it madly upon the others ; but 
Gleazen and Matterson would hear nothing of it, and even 



138 THE GREAT QUEST 

Gideon North told us frankly that he regarded such meas- 
ures as hopeless. 

"The man's gone and I'm sorry," he said ; "but I hon- 
estly believe it is useless for us to try to help him now." 

So, reluctantly, we dropped the matter, after reporting 
it both to the local authorities and to our own consul ; for 
however deeply we distrusted Gleazen and Matterson, in 
Captain North we had implicit faith. 

To prepare for the voyage, we took on board in the next 
few days supplies of divers kinds, and though I had learned 
much by now of the ways of life at sea, many of the things 
puzzled me. One day it was a vast number of empty 
water-casks ; another day, more than a hundred barrels of 
farina; yet another day, a boatload of beans and one of 
lumber. There were mysterious gatherings in the cabin 
from which Arnold and I were excluded, we could not 
fail to notice that they took place when Captain North 
was ashore, but to which gentry with dingy wristbands 
and shiny faces were bid ; and presently we saw stowed 
away forward iron boilers and iron bars, a great box of 
iron spoons, a heap of rusty shackles, and still puzzling, 
although perhaps less so, a mighty store of gunpowder. 

All this occasioned a long argument between Arnold and 
Captain North and myself, which fully enlightened me 
concerning the purpose of the mysterious supplies. But 
reluctant though we were to take the goods on board, there 
was nothing that we could do to stop it so long as my 
uncle, under Gleazen's influence, insisted on it ; for as 
owner of the brig, and in that particular port where con- 
traband trade played so important a part, he could have 
had us even jailed, if necessary, to carry his point. Our 
only way to serve him best in the end was to stand by in 
silence and let the stores, such as they were, go into the 
hold. 



LAND HO! 139 

All the time my uncle came and went in a silence so 
deep that, if I had not now and then caught his eyes fixed 
upon me with a sadness that revealed, more than words, 
how unhappy he was, I could scarcely have believed that 
he was the same Seth Upham in whose house I had lived 
so long. From a person of importance in his own town and 
a leader among those of us who had set forth with him, 
he had fallen to a place so shameful that I felt for him 
the deepest concern, and for the precious villains that 
were thus dishonoring my mother's brother, the deepest 
anger. 

" There are no pirates on the seas nowadays," I re- 
marked one morning to Neil Gleazen who stood beside me 
watching all that went forward and all the time I 
watched his face. "Why then should we set out armed 
to fight a sloop-of-war ? Or ship a pair of small-swords on 
the cabin bulkhead?" 

" Trade and barter, Joe," he replied. "The niggers 
fairly tumble over themselves to buy such tricks. There 's 
money in it, Joe." Then he laughed as if mightily pleased 
with himself. 

"But," I persisted, scarcely veiling my impatience, 
"you've said more than once that trade is not the object 
of our voyage." 

"True, Joe." He lowered his voice. "But that's no 
reason to neglect a chance to turn our money over. Ah, 
Joe, you're a good lad, and we must have a bout with the 
foils some day soon. I 'm sure we '11 get along well together, 
you and I." 

He smiled and clapped me on the shoulder ; but the old 
spell was broken, and when he had gone, I ruminated for a 
long time on one thing and another that had occurred in 
the past months. 

That evening, when Arnold and I stood with Gideon 



140 THE GREAT QUEST 

North abaft the wheel where there was no one to overhear 
us, Arnold and the honest captain would have confirmed 
my worst suspicions, had they needed to be confirmed. 
But by then I had observed as much as they, and we 
talked only in such vague terms as pleased our mood. 

"No ! There's more to this voyage than has appeared 
on the surface even yet," Captain North said in an under- 
tone. 

"I have heard them talking in Spanish," said Arnold 
Lamont, "of gold -- and of other things --of two men 
on the coast - - and of a ship wrecked at the hour they 
needed her most. They share a great secret. They have 
come scarred through more than one fight and have lost 
the vessel on which they counted to make their fortunes. 
They are taking us back now, perhaps to fight for them, 
perhaps to run for them, but always as their creatures. So 
much I, too, have learned. We must walk circumspectly, 
my friends. We must keep always together and guard al- 
ways against treachery. Mon dieu ! what men they are! " 

It was the longest speech I had ever heard Arnold make. 

Next day, following the arrival of a boatload of as ras- 
cally looking mariners as ever attempted to ship on board 
a reputable vessel, there ensued a quarrel so sudden and 
violent and so directly concerned with our fortunes, that 
Arnold and I hung in breathless suspense on the issue. 

"Gentlemen," Gideon North cried, hammering the cabin 
table with his fist, "as captain of this brig, I and I alone 
will say who shall ship with me and who shall not. I '11 not 
have my crew packed with vagabonds and buccaneers. 
I '11 turn those fellows back on shore, be it bag in hand and 
clothes upon them, or be it as stark naked as they came 
into this world, and I'll have you leave my crew alone 
from this day forth." 

Matterson laughed lightly. "Ah, captain," he said, in 



LAND HO! 141 

bitter sarcasm, "you are so excitable. They are able men. 
I'll answer for them." 

"Mr. Matterson," the captain retorted, "it devolves 
upon you to answer for yourself, which bids fair to be no 
easy task." 

"But," roared Gleazen, cursing viciously, "the owner 
says they're to come. And, by heaven, you'll cram them 
down your throat." 

"Stuff and nonsense - 

By this time I felt that I could hold my peace no longer. 
Certainly I was party to whatever agreement should be 
reached. "You lie !" I cried to Gleazen, "the owner said 
nothing of the kind !" 

"How about it, Seth, how about it?" Gleazen de- 
manded, disdainfully ignoring me. "Speak out your or- 
ders, speak 'em out or - ' the man's voice dropped until 
it rumbled in his throat " or - - you know what." 

Poor Seth Upham had thought himself so strong and 
able and shrewd ! So he had been in little Topham. But 
neither the quick wit nor the native courage necessary to 
cope with desperate, resolute men was left to him now. 

"I- -I- ' he stammered. " Take one or two of them, 
Captain North, just one or two, do that for me, I beg 
you, and let the rest go." 

"What !" exclaimed Gideon North. 

"One or two?" Gleazen thundered, "one or two? Only 
one or two?' ; 

Instantly both men had turned upon my uncle. Both 
men, their eyes narrowed, their jaws out-thrust, faced him 
in hot anger. There was a moment of dreadful silence ; 
then, to my utter amazement, my uncle actually got down 
on his knees in front of Neil Gleazen, down on his marrow 
bones on the bare boards, and wailed, "In the name of 
Heaven, Neil, don't tell ! Don't tell !" 



142 THE GREAT QUEST 

While we stared at him, Gideon North, Arnold, and I, 
literally doubting what our eyes told us was the plain 
truth, Matterson said lightly, as if he were speaking of a 
sick and fretful child, "Let him have it, Neil. I hate 
scenes. Keep only Pedro." 

Gideon North looked first at my uncle, then at Matter- 
son, and then back at my uncle. As if to a certain extent 
moved by the scene that we had just witnessed, he said no 
more ; so of five strange seamen, next day all save one went 
ashore again. 

That brief, fierce quarrel had revealed to us, as nothing 
else could have, into what a desperately abject plight 
my uncle had fallen. At the time it shocked me beyond 
measure. It was so pitifully, so inexpressibly disgraceful ! 
In all the years that have passed since that day in Havana 
harbor I have not been able to forget it ; to this moment I 
cannot think of it without feeling in my cheeks the hot 
blood of shame. 

The man whom Matterson chose to keep on board the 
Adventure appeared to be a good-natured soul, and he 
w r ent by the name of Pedro. What other name he had, if 
any, I never knew; but no seafaring man who ever met 
him needed another name. Years afterwards, down on old 
Long Wharf in Boston, I elicited an exclamation of amaze- 
ment by saying to a sailor who had slyly asked me for the 
price of a glass of beer, " Did you ever know a seafaring 
man named Pedro who had a pet monkey ?' : 

By his monkey I verily believe the man was known in 
half the ports of the world. He came aboard with the grin- 
ning, chattering beast, which seemed almost as big as him- 
self, perched on his shoulder. He made it a bed in his own 
bunk, fed it from his own dipper, and always spoke af- 
fectionately of it as "my leetle frienV 

The beast was uncannily wise. There w r as something 




'In the name of Heaven, Neil, don't tell! Don't tell!" 



LAND HO! 143 

veritably Satanic in the leers with which it would regard 
the men, and before we crossed the ocean, as I shall relate 
shortly, it became the terror of Willie MacDougald's life. 

So far as most of us could see, we were now ready to 
weigh anchor and be off; but by my uncle's orders we 
waited one day more, and on the morning of that day 
Uncle Seth and Neil Gleazen went on shore together. 

When after a long absence they returned, they had 
words with Captain North ; and though we had become 
used by now to quarrels between Gleazen and the captain, 
there was a different tone in this one, which puzzled Ar- 
nold and me. 

Presently the two and my uncle went below, where Mat- 
terson joined them; and except for Willie MacDougald, 
Arnold and I might never have known what took place. 
But Willie MacDougald, knocking at our stateroom door 
that night, thrust his small and apparently innocent face 
into the cabin, entered craftily and said, "If you please, 
sir, I've got news worth a pretty penny." 

"How much is it worth?" Arnold asked. 

"A shilling," Willie whispered. 

"That is a great deal of money." 

"Ah, but I've got news that's worth it." 

"I shall be the judge of that," Arnold responded. 

Willie squinted up his face and whispered, "They've got 
new papers." 

"How so?" Arnold demanded. He did not yet under- 
stand what Willie meant. 

"Why, new papers. Portuguese papers." 

"Ah," said Arnold. "Forged, I suppose? Shall we not 
sail under the American flag?' 1 

"Ay, ay, sir, but the schooner Shark and the sloop of 
war Ontario are to be sent across for cruising." 

"Ah!" 



144 THE GREAT QUEST 



"And Seth Upham's sold the brig." 

"Sold it !" Arnold exclaimed. For the moment both he 



and I thought that Willie was lying to us. 

"Ay, ay, sir. To be delivered in Africa. Half the money 
down, and half on delivery." 

"What do you mean by that?" 

"Why, sir," said the crafty youngster, who understood 
better than either of us the various subterfuges to which 
African traders resorted in order to elude searching cruis- 
ers, "all they have to do to change registry is to say she's 
delivered to the new owners, and fly a new flag and show 
the bill of sale." 

"Go on, go on. Must I drag the story from you word 
byword?" 

"Captain North, sir, said he'd be hanged first ; and Mr. 
Gleazen said he 'd be hanged anyway ; and ain't that worth 
two bits?" 

Arnold flung a coin to the grasping little wretch, and he 
went out and closed the door behind him. 

It was dark just outside our stateroom, and neither 
Willie nor we had been able to see anything that might 
have been there. For half a minute after Willie left us, 
while he was feeling his way toward the cabin, all was still. 
Then he suddenly shrieked so wildly that we leaped from 
our berths. 

There was a sound of crashing and bumping. Even 
wilder shrieks filled the air, and we heard a curious chat- 
tering and mumbling. Something fell against the state- 
room door and cracked a panel, the door flew open, and in 
toppled Willie with Pedro's monkey grasping him firmly 
by the throat from its perch on the little fellow's shoulders. 

"Help, help!" Willie shrieked. "Lord save me! It's 
the devil! Help! I repent! I repent!" And he tripped 
and fell with a crash. 



LAND HO! 145 

As he fell, the coin flew out of his hand, and the monkey, 
seeing the flash of silver, leaped after it, picked it up, fled 
like a lean brown shadow through the door, and was gone 
we knew not where. 

To this day I am not able to make up my mind whether 
the child's anger or his fear was the greater. Turning 
like a flash, he saw what it was that had attacked him ; 
yet he made no move to pursue the beast, and from that 
time on he regarded it with exceedingly great caution and 
nimbly and prudently betook himself out of its way. 
Canny, scheming, selfish Willie MacDougald ! 

At peep of dawn we got up our anchors and set sail and 
put out to sea, carrying with us heavy knowledge of perils 
and dangers that encompassed us, and sad memories of 
our old home in Topham, of our old friends in trouble, of 
high hopes that had fallen into ruin. 

It comforted me to see Abraham Guptil working with 
the crew. He stood in good repute with every man on 
board, from Matterson and Gleazen to little Willie Mac- 
Dougald, who now was in the steerage watching with 
great, round eyes all that went on about him. Good Abe 
Guptil! He, at least, concealed no diabolical craft be- 
neath an innocent exterior. 

I thought of Sim Muzzy. Poor Sim ! Since he had dis- 
appeared that night in the clutches of the press-gang, noth- 
ing that we had been able to do had called forth a single 
word of his whereabouts. He had vanished utterly, and 
though neither Arnold nor I had ever felt any great af- 
fection for the garrulous fellow, we both were sincerely 
grieved to lose an old companion thus unhappily. 

Now, as our sails filled, we swept past the Merry Jack 
and Eleanor, and the sight came to me like a shock of ill 
omen. The black disgrace of her lawless trade, the brutal 
men who manned her, the sinister experience that had fol- 



146 THE GREAT QUEST 

lowed so closely our call upon her captain, all combined to 
make me feel that the shadow she had cast upon us was 
not easily to be evaded. 

It was good to turn back once more to solid, substantial 
Gideon North, firm, wise Arnold Lament, and kindly, 
trustworthy Abe Guptil. On them and on me Uncle Seth's 
fortunes and my own depended, if not indeed our very 
lives. 

Mr. Matterson handled the brig from the forecastle and 
handled her ably. Not even Captain North, who watched 
him constantly with searching eyes, could find a thing of 
which to complain. His almost feminine voice took on a 
cutting quality that reached each man on board and con- 
veyed by its hard, keen edge a very clear impression of 
what would happen if aught should go astray. But there 
was that about him which made it impossible to trust 
him ; and Gleazen, seeming by his airs far more the owner 
than my poor, cowed uncle, stood by Gideon North and 
looked the triumph that he felt. 

So we passed between the castle and the battery and 
showed our heels to Cuba and set our course across the sea 
and lived always on guard, always suspicious, yet never 
confirming further our suspicions, until, weeks later, the 
lookout at the masthead cried, "Land ho !" 

The low, dark line that appeared far on the horizon, to 
mark the end of an uncommonly tranquil passage, so pleas- 
antly in contrast to our voyage to Cuba, deepened and 
took form. There was excitement forward and aft. Gleazen 
and Matterson clapped hands on shoulders and roared 
their delight and cried that now, they w T ere vile-mouthed, 
profane men, that now neither God nor devil should 
thwart them further. 

Through the ship the word went from lip to lip that 
yonder lay the coast of Guinea. 



LAND HO! 147 

It had become natural to us in the cabin to align our- 
selves on one side or the other. Gleazen and Matterson 
stood shoulder to shoulder, and Gideon North and Arnold 
Lamont and I gathered a little farther aft. We acted un- 
consciously, for all of us were intent on the land that we 
had raised; and my poor uncle, apparently assuming 
neither friend nor enemy, leaned against the cabin all 
alone. His face was averted and I could catch only a 
glimpse of his profile ; but I was convinced that I saw his 
lip tremble. 

Yonder, in truth, lay the coast of Guinea, and there at 
last every one of us was to learn the secret of that mad ex- 
pedition which had so long since set forth from the little 
New England town of Topham. 







IV 
THREE DESPERATE MEN 



CHAPTER XV 

THE ISLAND 

To the dark land on the sky-line, we swiftly drew 
nearer, and presently saw a low shore where a thread of 
gleaming white, which came and went, told us unmistak- 
ably that great seas were breaking. Of the exact point 
that we had reached on the coast we still were in doubt, 
for our charts were poor and Captain North suspected the 
quadrant of having developed some fault of a nature so 
technical that I neither understood it at the time nor now 
remember its name ; so we hove to, while Gleazen and 
Matterson and Gideon North, and eventually Mr. Sever- 
ance, of whom I saw less and thought more seldom than 
of any other man in the cabin, put their heads together 
and argued the matter. 

Mr. Severance was a good enough man in his place, I 
suppose, but he was too indolent and self-centred, and too 
sleepily fond of his pipe, to command attention. 

For all the headway that the four seemed to be making, 
they might have argued until the crack of doom, as far as 
I could see, when from the masthead came the cry, 
"Sail ho!" 

Matterson and Gleazen faced about, as quickly as 
weasels on a stone wall, and Gideon North was not much 
behind them. 

"Where away?" 

" Off the larboard bow!" 

"What do you make her out?" Captain North de- 
manded. 

"As yet, sir, she's too far off to be seen clearly." 



152 THE GREAT QUEST 

I had known that we were sailing dangerous seas, but 
nothing else had so vividly brought our dangers home to 
me as did the scene of desperate activity that now ensued. 
Hoarse orders went booming up and down the decks. 
Men sprang to braces and halyards. For a moment the 
foresail, newly let fall, roared in the wind, then, clapping 
like thunder, it filled, as the men tailed on tack and sheet, 
and catching the wind, stiffened like iron. Wearing ship, 
we set every stitch of our canvas, and with a breeze that 
drove us like a greyhound through the long, swiftly run- 
ning seas, went lasking up the coast of Africa, as, intently 
training glasses across the taffrail, we waited to see more 
of the strange vessel. 

Notwithstanding our feverish efforts to elude her, she 
had drawn slowly nearer, and w r e made out that she was a 
schooner and as fleet as a bird. For a tune there was talk 
of the armed schooner Shark, which our own government 
was reported to have sent out to cruise for slavers. 

It was with grim interest that we watched her every 
manoeuvre. Our men forward would constantly turn their 
heads to study her more closely, and those of us aft kept 
our eyes fixed upon her. Swift as was the Adventure, it 
was plain from the first that the schooner was outsailing 
her in a way that seemed almost to savor of wizardry. 

"I swear I can see the hangman's knot in her halyard," 
Gleazen cried, and roundly braced his oath. "Never be- 
fore did I feel such an itching on my neck." 

At that Gideon North sternly said, "If she's a govern- 
ment vessel, gentlemen, I can assure you that we will not 
run from her. We have committed no crime ; we carry no 
contraband. It is not government vessels I fear." 

"There's reason in that, too !" Gleazen muttered. "Yes, 
I'd as soon swing, as go over the side with my throat slit." 
Then, caustically, he added, "No! Oh, no! We've no 



THE ISLAND 153 

contraband, you say. So we have n't. But we have enough 
water-casks for three hundred men, and lumber for extra 
decks, and shackles and nigger food." 

Gideon North flamed red and started to respond an- 
grily ; but Matterson, with a sly smile, turned the argu- 
ment off by saying lightly, "If she's the Shark she's sail- 
ing under false colors. See ! She 's broken out the flag of 
Spain." 

"Humph," Captain North grunted, "she's a trader at 
best- 

"In either case, Captain North, she is outsailing us, for 
all our Baltimore bow and grand spread of canvas," Mat- 
terson interposed. "But never fear, Captain North, Glea- 
zen and I have a way with us. We have no wish to meet 
with any ships of war, but from mere pirates and slavers 
we are not, I beg to assure you, in any great danger." 

"Humph ! The devil looks well after his own." 

"The devil," Matterson retorted with an ironical smile, 
"is not so bad a master as some men would make him out 
to be." 

Leaning on the rail, we silently watched the swift, 
strange schooner. Above the horizon, so perfectly did the 
bright canvas with the sun upon it blend into the back- 
ground of sky, we could see only the black shadows that 
appeared on the sails just abaft the masts and stays ; but 
her hull made a clean, bright line against the vivid blue of 
the sea, and against that same blue the foot of her main- 
sail stood out as sharp and white as if cut from bone. 
She continued to gain on us surely all that afternoon, but 
our apprehensions, which grew keener as she drew nearer, 
were allayed when she stood out to sea and gave us as 
wide a berth as we desired. She was a rarely beautiful 
sight, when, in the early evening, still far out at sea, she 
passed us ; and remembering the Merry Jack and Eleanor 



154 THE GREAT QUEST 

in Havana harbor, I could not bear to think that so grace- 
ful a craft might carry sordid sights and smells. 

After a time, as the light changed, her sails turned to a 
slate-gray touched with dull blue, and with a great blotch 
of purple shadow down the middle, where mainsail merged 
into staysail and foresail, and foresail into jib. So grim, 
now, did she appear in the gathering darkness, that I 
could have believed almost anything of her. And now she 
was gone ! Lost to sight ! Vanished into the distant, al- 
most uncharted waters of the great gulf ! Only the mem- 
ory of her marvelous swiftness and of the changing light 
on her sails was left to us - - that and the memory of one 
more angry encounter with Gleazen and Matterson. 

That night, while we lay in those long slow seas which 
roll in upon the African coast, the two spent hours by the 
taffrail in low-voiced conversation, and Gideon North sat 
below over his charts and papers, and Arnold and I strolled 
about the deck, arm in arm, talking of one project and an- 
other. But my uncle, Seth Upham, the man who owned 
the Adventure, paced the deck alone in the moonlight, now 
with his head bent as if under the weight of a heavy bur- 
den, now with his head erect and with an air of what 
seemed at some moments wild defiance. An odor of to- 
bacco drifted back to us on the wind from where the car- 
penter and the sailmaker were smoking together, and we 
heard the voices of men in the forecastle. 

When, at daybreak, we resumed our course up the coast, 
we knew that we were near the end of our journey, for 
Gleazen and Matterson were constantly conferring to- 
gether and with Gideon North ; and a dozen times in two 
hours, one or the other of them charged the masthead man 
to keep a smart lookout. 

Now Gleazen would lean his elbows on the rail and 
search the horizon ; now he would hand the glass to Mat- 



THE ISLAND 155 

terson and stride the deck in a fury of impatience. Below, 
the log-book lay open on the cabin table at a blank page, 
on which there was a rough pencil-sketch of coast and a 
river and an island. On a chart, which lay half open across 
a chair, someone had drawn a circle with a pair of com- 
passes, half on land and half on sea ; and when Arnold si- 
lently drew my attention to it, I saw that in the circle 
someone had penciled the same sketch that I had seen on 
the blank page of the log-book. 

Coast, river, and island ! We studied the sketch in si- 
lence and talked of it afterward. 

That evening, for the first time in many hours, we came 
on Captain North alone by the rail. 

" Someone has drawn an island on the chart," said Ar- 
nold, slowly. 

Gideon North growled assent. 

"Well?" said Arnold. 

"It would seem that the blithering idiots don't know its 
bearings within a hundred miles, and yet they expect me 
to bring it straight aboard. One says thus and so ; t'other 
says so and thus. Gleazen talked loudest and I took his 
word first - - like a fool, for he 's no navigator. I 'd not put 
such foolishness beyond Seth Upham, but the others ought 
to know better. Aye ! And they do know better." 

"What island?" I demanded. 

He shot a keen glance at me. 

"Hm! Have they said naught to you?" 

"Not a word." 

Arnold was smiling. 

"Nor to you?" Gideon North demanded, seeing him 
smile. 

"Nor to me." 

"Then," said he, "you two know less than I, and I know 
little enough." 



156 THE GREAT QUEST 

"If you know more than we, pray tell us what you 
can?" 

"After all," said he, "I only know that we are looking 
for an island, and that when we find it the deviltry is yet to 
begin- He smiled grimly. "We'll yet have a chance 
to see sparks fly from those weapons Gleazen hung in the 
cabin. I hear he's a clever man at the smallsword." 

When he said that, Captain North looked at Arnold and 
me as if to question us. 

"Clever?" I replied. "Yes, he's clever, though - - " 

I then saw that Arnold was smiling. I remembered see- 
ing him smile when Gleazen and I were fencing on the 
green. I remembered his saying that he had not been 
laughing at me. And now he was smiling again ! 

I stammered with embarrassment and clumsily con- 
cluded, "But --but not so very -- perhaps not very 
clever." 

In the waist I heard Gleazen call in a low voice, "Mast- 
head ! You there, wake up !" 

"Ay-ay, sir," came the man's reply. 

"Not so loud," said Gleazen. "Have you seen no lights 



"No lights, sir, and no land but the coast yonder, which 
we've seen these two days." 

I could just make out that Gleazen was leaning on the 
bulwark and staring into the northeast. 

"Did you hear that?" Captain North asked in a whis- 
per. 

We both had heard it. 

"I'm thinking," Captain North presently muttered, 
"that we're like to see more land than will be good for us. 
Mark the sky to westward." 

It was banked with clouds. 

The island, when we found it, which we did early next 



THE ISLAND 157 

day, proved to be low and flat and marshy. Behind it, ex- 
actly according to the sketch in the log-book and on the 
chart, lay the mouth of a river. On the mainland in each 
direction, as far as we could see, and on the bar at the 
mouth of the river, and on the outer shore of the island, 
which seemed to be in the nature of a delta, although with 
deep water behind it where the flow of the river appeared 
to have kept a Y-shaped channel open, a great surf broke 
with muffled roar ; and in the channel a ruffle of choppy 
waves indicated that stream and tide combined to make a 
formidable current. 

As we bore down on it, Gleazen and Matterson and Seth 
Upham drew apart and stood smiling as they talked to- 
gether hi undertones. But Captain North and Mr. Sever- 
ance and some of the older sailors were studying sky and 
wind and currents, and their frowns indicated that much 
was amiss. 

To me, watching Gleazen and Matterson, it seemed 
strange that men who but a little while ago had been so 
fiercely eager should all at once become as subdued as 
deacons before the communion table ; and it was only when 
I edged around until I could see Gleazen's face that I sus- 
pected the wild glee that the man was restraining. The 
light in his eyes and the change in his expression so fasci- 
nated me that for the moment I almost forgot Arnold La- 
mont and Gideon North and the alliance that bound us 
together, almost forgot my poor uncle and his wild hopes, 
almost forgot the very island whose low and sedgy shores 
we were approaching. 

"Gentlemen," cried Captain North, his voice startled 
me as much as those whom he addressed, " would you 
wreck this vessel by keeping me here on a lee shore with 
heaven only knows what weather brewing ? Look for your- 
selves at those clouds in the southwest. If this harbor, of 



158 THE GKEAT QUEST 

which you were talking yesterday, is within fifty miles of 
us, we must run for it. If not, we must stand off shore and 
prepare to ride out the storm." 

"The harbor, Captain North," Matterson returned, his 
light voice hard with antagonism, "is much less than fifty 
miles from here. You will lay by for one hour while we go 
ashore on that island yonder; then I will pilot you to 
harbor." 

"Mister Matterson /" said Captain North calmly, turn- 
ing on the giant of a man beside him, "are you mate or 
master?" 

"Captain North," Matterson very quietly replied, "I 
am mate of this vessel, and as mate I do not dictate. 
Have I not worked faithfully and well on this voyage? 
Have I not carried out every order of yours?" 

It was true, for to the surprise of Gideon North and Ar- 
nold and myself, he had made a first-class mate. 

"But I also am a friend of the owner and as friend of the 
owner, I spoke just now, forgetting my place as mate. I 
ask you to pardon me." 

In his words and his manner there was something so 
oily and insincere that from the bottom of my heart I dis- 
trusted him, and so, obviously enough, did Gideon North. 
But the man's sudden change of front took the weapons, 
so to speak, out of the captain's hands ; and before he 
could reply Matterson said, "Mr. Upham, what are your 
wishes in the matter?" 

I looked first at my uncle, then I looked back at Mat- 
terson, and as I looked at Matterson, I caught a glimpse 
over his shoulder of Neil Gleazen, who was staring at 
Uncle Seth with a scowl on his brow and with his lips 
moving. Turning again to my uncle, I once more saw on 
his face, now so weak, the pathetically timid expression 
that I had come to know so well. 



THE ISLAND 159 

"If there's no immediate danger- ' he began. 

" There's none at all!" Matterson and Gleazen cried 
with one voice. 

"Then let us go ashore, say for merely half an hour." 

Captain North, with a shrug as of resignation, put the 
trumpet to his lips and gave orders that brought the brig 
into the wind with sails ashiver. 

"Come, lads," Gleazen cried to Arnold and me, "the 
more the merrier." 

So into the boat we climbed, and I for one was pleased 
to find that Abe Guptil had an oar. 

It was about half a mile from the brig to the island, and 
when we reached it and hauled out the boat, I pushed 
ahead of the others. Climbing from the edge of the water 
up the little incline at the head of the beach, I saw first of 
all, on the farther shore a quarter of a mile away, the ribs 
and broken planking of a WTecked ship. Then, before I 
had taken another step, I saw some little creature running 
through the grass and looked after it eagerly, to discover 
yhat strange kind of animal would inhabit so barren and 
remote an isle. 

At first I saw only that the animal was long and gray. 
Then it came out into plain sight, and I saw that it was 
a rat - - an ordinary rat such as I had seen by the hun- 
dreds in old barns and in old ships. And how, I wondered, 
had an ordinary rat, such as might slink along the wharves 
at Boston, come to live on that lonely island? Before an 
answer occurred to me, I saw another running away hi a 
different direction, and another and another. I stopped 
short and looked about me. Here, there, everywhere were 
rats. The island was peopled with them. With big gray 
rats ! Then I looked at the bones of that wrecked ship, 
which stuck up out of the water, and knew that I had 
found the answer to my question. They were rats from 



160 THE GREAT QUEST 

that ship ; they had come ashore when she was wrecked. 

What they lived on, I never knew ; but there they had 
flourished and multiplied and formed in the midst of those 
blue seas a great rat empire. 

"Rats !" I heard Gleazen exclaim. "Pfaw ! How I hate 
them!" 

Throwing sticks ahead of him to drive away the lean, 
gray vermin, he started across the marshy land toward the 
old wreck, and the rest of us fell in behind him. 

Of us all, Matterson showed the least repugnance for the 
multitude of snaky little beasts that swarmed around us at 
a distance and watched us with angry eyes as black as shoe 
buttons. 

And now we came to the wreck and saw a sight that 
filled me with horror. In the hold, into which we could 
look through holes between the ribs and between the beams 
where the waves had torn away the spar deck, there were 
five human skeletons chained by their ankle-bones to the 
timbers. Yet, so far as there was any outward sign, I was 
the only one to see the skeletons. 

Matterson and Gleazen looked long and sadly at the old 
hulk, and Gleazen finally said, "She's done for and gone, 
Molly. There's not a thing left about her that's worth 
salving." 

Matterson gloomily nodded. "Mr. Upham," said he, 
"we lost two hundred prime niggers that night." 

I turned away from them, as they stood there talking, 
and went back to the boat. It would be good, I thought 
while I waited, to leave the island forever. 

Whatever the outcome of their talk may have been, the 
rising wind presently brought them back to the boat in a 
hurry. We launched her, and tumbled aboard, drenched 
from head to foot, and after a lively struggle came up alee 
of the brig. It was plain that we must soon seek shelter, 



THE ISLAND 161 

for already the storm was blowing up and the waves came 
charging down upon us in fierce, racing lines. 

"Yonder island," Matterson was saying, at the same 
time marking a diagram on the palm of one hand with the 
forefinger of the other, " yonder island is part of the delta 
of the Rio Polo. It runs so - - and so and all but the 
island is washed away. You see, do you not, gentlemen? 
If Captain North will run straight so, northeast by east, 
say, holding his bearings by the angle of ripples where 
you see the current veer, and when we are four cables' 
lengths from the breakers give me the wheel, I will take 
her over the bar." 

"Mr. Matterson " 

"The responsibility is mine, Captain North, by the 
owner's orders." 

"Ah, Mr. Upham," said the captain, with a wry smile, 
"and is this the kind of support you give me?" 

Not one word did my uncle say. 

I had seen Pedro's monkey for a while playfully swing- 
ing from rope to rope and later scratching its ear as it sat 
on the companion hatch ; but I had not seen it go below, 
nor had any of the others. To this day no one knows just 
how it evaded us, for it was forbidden the cabin, and 
every man on board had orders to head it off if it showed 
any inclination to go there. Yet the mischievous beast 
did slip below, and for once succeeded in catching Willie 
MacDougald off his guard. 

Willie, it seems, had been engaged in the praiseworthy 
occupation of spying on Neil Gleazen, and had one eye 
firmly fixed to the keyhole of the cabin door when the mon- 
key calmly jabbed teeth and claws into the luckless boy's 
leg. 

His yell startled every man on deck ; but far more than 



162 THE GREAT QUEST 

it startled us did it startle the man in the cabin, who had 
thought himself safe from peeping eyes. 

First we heard Willie yelling with all the power of his 
brazen little throat ; then the cabin door was flung open 
with a bang ; then suddenly Willie and the monkey liter- 
ally flew out of the companionway and alighted on deck. 

The fall was short and neither was much hurt. But 
when each tried to escape from the other, both started to 
run in the same direction and Willie, tripping, fell on the 
monkey. At that, the monkey grabbed Willie's head with 
its front claws, raked its hind claws across his face, then 
snatching out two good handfuls of hair, fled triumphantly 
aloft. 

Gleazen burst out on deck at that very instant, and see- 
ing nothing of Willie who - - luckily for him ! - - had fallen 
out of sight round the corner of the cabin, started into the 
rigging, swearing to skin the monkey alive. 

Meanwhile Matterson was like to have died laughing at 
Willie MacDougald, and, indeed, so were the rest of 
us ! - - for between anger and fear, and with half a dozen 
long scratches across his cheeks, he was in a sad state of 
mind. I tell you, any ideas of his innocent childhood that 
we may have entertained completely vanished before the 
flood of oaths that the little wretch was pouring out, when 
Gideon North collared him and sent him below with sting- 
ing ears. 

And now, since all that takes so long to tell happened 
quickly, the breakers were close aboard, when Gleazen, 
who had followed the scapegrace monkey to the mizzen 
royal yard, roared in that great voice of his : - 

"Sail ho ! By heaven, there's a cruiser in the offing." 

He came down the rigging like a cat, bawling orders as 
he came, and at the same time Gideon North was giving 
counter-orders. It seemed for a moment that in that scene 



THE ISLAND 163 

of confusion, which suddenly from comedy had changed 
to the grimmest of grim earnest, we should go on beam- 
ends into the surf. 

Seas such as I had never dreamed of were breaking on 
the bar before us. Overhead a storm was gathering. In 
the offing, it was reported, there sailed a strange and hos- 
tile ship. And in the brig Adventure there were contra- 
dictory orders and tangled ropes and men working at cross 
purposes. 

Say what you will against Matterson in most respects, 
in that emergency he was the man who saved us. Throw- 
ing the helmsman from the wheel so violently that he fell 
clean over the companion ladder and down to the spar- 
deck, he seized the wheel and cried in a voice as hard as 
steel, "Gleazen, be still! Be still, I say! Now, Captain 
North, with head yards aback and after yards braced for 
the starboard tack, we'll make it." 

Captain North, with an able man at the wheel, to pay 
the devil his due, gave orders in swift succession and 
the brig came back on her course and rose to meet the 
breakers. How Matterson so surely and confidently found 
the exact channel, I do not know. But this I do know : he 
took the brig in through the breakers without the error of 
as much as a hair's breadth, straight in along the channel, 
with never a mark to guide him that I could see, except 
the belt of tidal chop and the eddies of the intermingling 
currents, to the comparative quiet of the mouth of a river 
that led away before us into the mazes of vast swamps and 
tangled waterways, where mangroves and huge inter- 
weaving, overhanging vines and sickly sweet flowers grew 
in all the riotous luxury of tropical vegetation. 

To me the calm river seemed an amazing haven from 
every danger that we had encountered outside. But not 
so to Matterson. 



164 THE GREAT QUEST 

Looking back at the thundering breakers, he thought- 
fully shook his head. 

"Well," said Gleazen significantly, "if worst comes to 
worst, we can fight." 

"If worst comes to worst." 

"Well?" 

Matterson shook himself like a dog. "It's the niggers," 
he said in a low voice. "If them infernal witch doctors get 
wind of us!" 

Gleazen stared a long tune into the mangroves. 

"It ain't as if we could take an army," Matterson con- 
tinued. "We've got to take only them we know - - know, 
mind you. What 'd our lives be worth if all these here - 
he waved his hand at the crew forward --"if all these 
here knew. It would pay 'em well to knock us on the 
head." 

Still Gleazen stared silently into the tangled swamp. 

"It would pay 'em well," Matterson repeated. 



CHAPTER XVI 

STRANGEST OF ALL 

EVEN had I not suspected already that Matterson had 
brought vessels into the mouth of that river many times 
before, I could not have doubted it after seeing him bring 
the Adventure through the narrow channel across the bar, 
and up to the mouth of the river itself. I marveled that, 
having been more than a year away from it, how much 
more than a year I did not know, he dared even attempt 
the passage. But whatever his faults, indecision and fear 
were not among them, and he had justified his bold course 
by bringing us safely within the sheltering bar, where the 
lookouts reported minute by minute every movement of 
the suspicious distant sail, which approached until from 
the deck we could see her courses, and then wore ship to 
haul off shore before the storm caught her. 

"Bah! The cruising curs!" Matterson scornfully ex- 
claimed. " Captain North, shall I continue to serve as 
pilot and take the brig up the river?" 

" Since up the river it seems we are to go," Captain 
North returned stiffly, "I place the helm and all responsi- 
bility in your hands, Mr. Matterson." With that he 
folded his arms and, with a nod to Seth Upham, withdrew 
to the weather-rail. 

My poor uncle ! 

Never was there merer figurehead than he as owner of 
the brig Adventure. It was pathetic to see him try to main- 
tain his dignity and speak and answer smartly, even 
sharply as of old, when every man on board knew that if 
that reckless, high-handed pair, Gleazen and Matterson 



1G6 THE GREAT QUEST 

were at any time to cease tolerating him, his life would 
be worth no more than the flame of a snuffed candle. He 
must have been perfectly well aware of the weak part he 
had played, yet he held up his head and boldly returned 
Gideon North's glance and nod. 

Meanwhile Matterson had climbed to the masthead and 
with glass at eye was studying the stranger. Now he came 
slowly down again, and said to Gleazen, "She's bearing 
off in good faith to ride out the storm, Neil. What say? 
Shall we anchor here behind the bar?' : 

Gleazen shook his head. 

" There's fair shelter," Matterson persisted. 

Gleazen waved his hand at the black sky. "But not 
shelter enough," he said. 

"If we go up the river," said Matterson in a low voice, 
"the news will spread from here to the hills." 

Gleazen smiled unpleasantly. "Look off the larboard 
bow," he said. 

We all turned, as did Matterson, and I for one, at first, 
saw nothing except the vines and great trees on which fell 
the shadows of the premature twilight that foreran the 
storm. But Matterson cried out, and Arnold Lament, see- 
ing my blank expression, touched my arm and pointed at 
a dark lane of water and said, "See - - there- - there !" 

Then I saw something moving, and made out a canoe. 
In the canoe was a big black negro, with round eyes and 
flat nose and huge, puffed-out lips. The negro was pad- 
dling. Then I saw something else. I could not believe my 
eyes. I turned to the others, and knew by their faces that 
they and Arnold had seen it, too, and that Seth Upham 
had not. 

Then Gleazen, who was looking hard at Matterson, said 
with an oath, "The beer is spilt. It's up the river for us." 

And Matterson nodded. 



STRANGEST OF ALL 167 

In that canoe, which had already swiftly and silently 
disappeared among the mangroves, I had seen a white girl. 

I cannot describe her to you now as she then appeared 
in the canoe, sitting in front of the great, black canoeman. 
It was long ago, and even at the time I was so startled, so 
amazed, that I saw only her white face and great dark 
eyes looking out at me from the shadowy recesses of the 
swamp. 

I felt as if I had been set down suddenly in the midst of 
a fairy story. I strove against a sense of mystery and 
danger, a thousand vague terrors. 

I cannot tell you what the girl looked like ; yet, though 
I seem to deal in contradictions, I have never forgotten 
that white frightened face and those dark eyes, which 
had disappeared as mysteriously as they had come. 

Then, as the sails filled and the Adventure fell off and 
got steerage-way and slipped up the great, swift river, 
Matterson spun the wheel with his own hands this way 
and that. 

At first the shores were low and sedgy and covered 
deeply with mangroves ; but soon the river widened into a 
vast mirror, in which we saw reflected towering trees of 
numberless varieties, with a trailing network of vines and 
flowers, and from among the leaves, which were unbe- 
lievably large, spears of bamboo and cane protruded. As 
the wind at our backs drove us slowly up stream, notwith- 
standing the swifter current where we passed through the 
narrows, we saw plantains, bananas, oranges, lemons, and 
tall palms. Then between the trunks we saw fields of rice ; 
and then, as we turned a bend where the river once more 
widened, we saw a settlement before us. 

In the centre of a clearing stood low houses built of cane 
and thatched with grass, mud huts grouped here and 
there, and a large enclosure for some purpose of which I 



168 THE GREAT QUEST 

was ignorant. Could the girl I had seen in the swamp have 
come thither ? On all sides people were running this way 
and that, some of them white, but most of them as black 
as midnight. So small did the settlement appear, and so 
sharply was each figure outlined, that it looked for all the 
world like a toy village in a shop window, or like such a 
tiny model of a foreign town as sailors sometimes bring 
home from distant ports. 

As the anchor gripped the bed of the river, and the men, 
spraddling out on the footropes and leaning over the yards, 
clewed up the sails and hauled hi the great folds of can- 
vas, the Adventure brought up on her cable and lay with 
her head into the current. 

Matterson and Gleazen who had ordered a boat 
launched and were standing in the gangway, now turned 
and called to Uncle Seth, who responded by walking toward 
them with as haughty a manner as if he were heart and 
soul in their councils and their plans. All three of them 
got into the boat and there talked for a while in under- 
tones. Then they called Willie MacDougald to come 
tumbling after them, and all together they hastily went 
ashore, where I saw that a crowd had gathered to meet 
them ; then the storm, which had so long been threatening, 
broke with a roar of wind and rain, and Arnold and I, 
going below, had the cabin for a time to ourselves. 

Arnold sat down by the cabin table and looked around 
at ports and doors, and at the dueling swords on the bulk- 
head, and up at the skylight on which the storm was 
fiercely beating. 

" You, too," he said, with a quiet smile, "you, too, Joe, 
look around at the cabin of this good brig. It has not 
been a pleasant place to live, but I do believe there are 
times coming when we shall wish ourselves back again in 
this very spot." 



STRANGEST OF ALL 169 

"And what have you learned now of our friends' plans ? " 
I asked. 

"One does not have to learn so much, Joe." 

"But what?" 

Arnold, I knew, was smiling at my impatience, although 
the light was so nearly gone that I saw him, when he bent 
forward, only as a deeper shadow in the darkness. Yet the 
ports and the skylight still were clear enough to be re- 
flected in his eyes when he leaned very close to me, and 
whatever his doubts, I saw that he showed no sign of fear. 

"They talked yesterday and to-day - - in Spanish - - of 
the men they call Bud and Bull, who share the secret that 
has brought us all the way from Top Hark !" 

Arnold half rose. I myself heard a soft step. When Ar- 
nold lifted his hand I saw his knife, now drawn, so far as I 
knew, for the first time in apprehension of treacherj^. 
Then the step so soft and low sounded again. I 
reached for my own pistol. The sound was repeated yet 
again. It was just outside the door. Then into the cabin 
crept a low ambling creature, which we both knew at once 
must be Pedro's monkey. 

Arnold laughed quietly and sat down again and breathed 
deeply. 

"They have discovered something," he whispered, as 
if we had suffered no interruption. 

"That I know well," I said. "But what?" I believed 
that I, too, had ferreted out the secret, but I was not yet 
willing to hazard my surmises. 

"Sh!" He raised his hand to warn me. "Do you not 
guess?" he whispered. "Try! Until they have got what 
they have found to the sea, you and I are safe. They must 
have men to help them who will not turn and rob them. 
They do not believe in the saying about honor among 
thieves." 



170 THE GREAT QUEST 

"Come," I cried, "stop speaking in riddles. Tell me!" 
Then, thinking of Cornelius Gleazen as I first had seen 
him, with the rings flashing on his fingers, I popped out a 
word that began with D. 

Arnold smiled and nodded. 

"Well," I returned, "speak up and tell me if such a voy- 
age as we have come upon is not a far-fetched manner of 
approaching such an errand as you have described." 

"In a sense, yes. In a sense, no. They are after other 
things, too. This good vessel, as we have remarked be- 
fore, is well found for the trade." 

Suddenly, he gave me a start by beginning to whistle a 
lively tune and to drum on the table. His quick ear had 
detected another step in the companionway. As the step 
drew near, the monkey, which in our absorption we had 
quite forgotten, pattered toward the door and slipped out. 

"What's that? Who's here? Who passed me then?" 
It was Captain North. 

Arnold struck a spark into tinder and lighted a candle. 

"And what, pray, are you two doing here in the dark ? " 
the captain demanded. 

"We are passing time with talk of our good friends, 
Gleazen and Matterson," said Arnold. 

With an angry exclamation, Captain North took the 
chair opposite us. 

"Well," said he, "matters have turned out as any sane 
man might have known they would. That precious little 
scamp of a cabin boy will tell you no more tales, Lamont." 

"You mean " 

"I'll wager half my wages for the voyage that you and 
I have seen the last of him. The monkey betrayed the 
little scamp after all." 

Although I knew that Willie MacDougald's innocent 
and childlike face masked a scheming, rascally mind, I 



STRANGEST OF ALL 171 

could not so calmly see the little fellow go, soul and body, 
into the power of such men as Gleazen and Matterson, or 
perhaps worse ; and although neither Arnold nor Gideon 
North, appraising Willie at his true worth, cared a straw 
what became of him, I was so troubled by his probable 
fate that I did not listen to the others, who were talking 
coolly enough about our own predicament, but, instead, 
got up and walked around the cabin. 

It seemed very strange to listen to the roaring wind 
and driving rain and yet feel the brig lying quiet under- 
foot in the strong, deep current of the river. Now I sat 
down and listened to a few sentences of their talk ; now I 
got up and once more paced the cabin. For a while I 
thought about Willie MacDougald ; then I thought of the 
dangers that surrounded us all, and of poor Uncle Seth, 
once so bold and arrogant, now become little better than a 
cowardly, pitiful wretch ; then I thought of the girl I had 
seen hi the jungle, and strangely enough the memory of 
her face seemed at once to quiet my wilder fancies and to 
enable me to think more clearly than before. 

Becoming aware at last that the storm was passing, I 
went on deck and saw lights in the clearing where the 
houses stood. The wind, which had come upon us so sud- 
denly and so fiercely, was subsiding as suddenly as it had 
arisen, and a deep calm pervaded river, clearing, and jun- 
gle. I had not waited ten minutes before I heard the boat 
on the water. 

"I swear," I heard Gleazen say in an angry, excited 
voice, "I swear they're lying to us. Bud '11 tell us. News 
travels fast hereabouts. Bud '11 be here soon." 

They came on board, one at a time, all but Willie Mac- 
Dougald. Of him there was neither sign nor word. I 
started forward to question them, then stopped short. 
Something in their attitude froze and repelled me. Of 



172 THE GREAT QUEST 

what use were questions - - then, at any rate ? For a mo- 
ment they waited in the gangway, then, all together, they 
went aft. 

Leaving them and moving to the farther side of the brig, 
I looked a long time into the dark, tangled jungle. The 
clouds had gone and the stars had come out and the dying 
wind spoke only in slow, distant soughs among the leaves. 
So blackly repellent was the matted and decaying vegeta- 
tion, through which dark veins of stagnant water ran, and 
so grimly silent, that I could not keep from shuddering 
with a sort of childish horror. Surely, I thought, human 
beings could not penetrate such depths. Then, almost 
with my thought, there came across the dark and fever- 
laden waters of the great swamp, out of the black jungle 
night, a thread of golden melody. Someone in that very 
jungle was whistling sweetly an old and plaintive tune. 

I heard the three, Gleazen, Matterson, and my uncle, 
turn to listen. By lantern light I saw their faces as they 
looked intently toward the jungle. So still had the brig 
now become, that I actually heard them breath more 
quickly. 

Then Neil Gleazen cried, "By the Holy, that's either 
Bud O'Hara or his ghost." .; 

With both hands cupped round his mouth, he was about 
to send a hoarse reply roaring back across the river, when 
Matterson clutched his hand. 

"Be still," he whispered. "Here's the answer." 

And he, in turn, sent back the answering phrase of that 
singularly mournful and haunting ballad : " I Lost my Love 
in the Nightingale." 



CHAPTER XVII 

THE MAN FROM THE JUNGLE 

VERY slowly Matterson whistled that old tune, "The 
Nightingale," and very slowly an answer came back to us ; 
then a long silence ensued. The black water of the marsh 
rose and fell. We could hear it whispering softly as it 
washed against the tangled roots of the mangroves, and 
once in a while I could distinguish the long, faint rasp of 
some branch or vine that dragged across another. But ex- 
cept for those small noises, the place was as still as a house 
of death ; and as we watched and waited, the feeling grew 
upon me that we must be in the midst of a dream. 

Then something moved and caught my eye, and a canoe 
silently shot out upon the river. With a swish and swirl of 
paddles, she came alongside us and stayed for a moment, 
like a dragon-fly pausing in its flight, then shot silently 
back the way she had come. I had seen against the water 
that there were three men in the canoe when she came ; but 
when she slipped back into the mangroves, I saw that there 
were only two. 

Before I had time to question the reason of all this, I 
saw a man's head rise above the bulwark and knew that he 
had sprung from the canoe to the chains while the little 
craft so briefly paused. 

Climbing over the bulwark and dropping to the deck, 
the man said in low, cautious voice, "Is it Neil I've been 
hearing? And Molly?" 

"Here we be, Bud, us two and Seth Upham." 

"And sure, do this fine vessel be ours, Neil?" 

"Ours she is, along with Seth Upham. Come, Bud, here 



174 THE GREAT QUEST 

is Mr. Upham, who has joined in with us and gets a half- 
and-half lay, and here ' 

" Neil," the mysterious newcomer drawled, "would he 
be comin' for naught short of half shares ? And where 's 
Molly? Ah, Molly, you've been long away." 

They all were shaking hands together. 

"And now," said Matterson, "what news of Bull?" 

"Of Bull, is it ? " the man replied. "Sure, he 's sitting on 
the chest o' treasure. Warnings they give us, that the hill 
is haunted and all such. Spirits, you know, Neil ; spirits, 
Molly. Sure the niggers know more about them things 
than we do indeed they do. It's not I would go agin 
them rashly. But I fixed 'em, lads." 

"How?" asked Matterson softly. 

"Bull laughed at them fit to kill, which is his way, as 
you '11 remember, but not I. Says I, ' Laugh if you will ; 
't is well to be fearless since you're the one to stay.' But 
I did for him better than the stiff-necked rascal would do 
for himself. That night I hunted me out an old master 
wizard and paid him in gold, and did n't he give me a 
charm that will keep spirits away?" 

To hear a sober white man talk of charms with all the 
faith of a credulous child amazed me. I had never dreamed 
there could be such a man. Pressing closer, I took a good 
look at this queer stranger, and saw him to be a short, 
broad fellow, with a square jaw and a face so intelligent 
that my amazement became even greater. 

He, hi turn, saw me looking at him, and half in a drawl, 
half in a brogue, asked, "Now who'll this one be?" 

"He's the young man that came with Mr. Upham," 
Gleazen replied. 

"Is he fearless?" asked the strange Bud. "And is he 
honest? - - Aye," he rather testily added, "and is he, too, 
to share half-and-half?" 



THE MAN FROM THE JUNGLE 175 

To that Gleazen returned no answer, but the man's tone 
made me think of Gleazen himself roaring drunk and stag- 
gering away from Higgleby's barn, of Matterson with his 
voice hardened to a cutting edge, of the master of the 
Merry Jack and Eleanor, and of the adventurous night 
when we parted from poor Sim Muzzy. I tell you hon- 
estly, I would have given every cent I had in the world 
and every chance I had of fortune to have been fifteen 
hundred leagues away. 

Turning to Matterson, the man went on: "'T is not 
discreet for the like o' you two to come sailing in by broad 
daylight with all sail set. Now why could n't ye ha' come 
in a boat, say, and let the brig lie off the coast. Then we 
could 'a' met secret-like and 'a' got away and up the river 
with no one the wiser. Sure, and there's not a soul in a 
thousand miles, now, that ain't heard a tale o' Neil and 
Molly." 

"The storm was hard upon us," said Matterson. 

"And a cruiser lay in the offing," said Gleazen. 

"It would be possible, then," the man returned, "that 
ye 're not as big - - not quite as big fools as I took ye to be." 

Then, as if all had been arranged beforehand, while Mat- 
terson and the strange man and Uncle Seth went below to 
the cabin, Gleazen took me by the arm and led me away 
from the others. 

"Joe," he murmured, and I saw a new, eager glint in 
his eyes, "Joe, there's great times coming. I've made 
up my mind I can trust you, Joe, and I 'm going to make 
you my lieutenant. Yes, sir, I'm going to make you an 
officer." 

I wondered what kind of story he would tell next, for 
by this tune I knew him far too intimately to be deceived 
by his brazen flattery. It was singularly trying for me, 
man grown that I was, to be treated with an air of patron- 



176 THE GREAT QUEST 

age that a stripling would have resented, and there were 
moments when I was like to have turned on Gleazen with 
a vengeance. But I waited my time. It was not hard to 
see that my patience need not endure interminably. 

"You, Joe, are one of us," he continued, "and we're 
glad to take you into OUT confidence. But these others ' : 
he waved his hand generally "we can't have 'em know 
too much. Now we're going to-night to get things sized 
up and ready, and what I want to know, Joe, is this : will 
you - - as my lieutenant, you understand - - take Arnold 
and Mr. Severance and Captain North ashore to call on 
Mr. Parmenter?" 

"But who," I asked, "is Mr. Parmenter?" 

"He's an Englishman, Joe, and if you can sort of con- 
vey to him - - you know what I mean - - that we 're after 
hides and ivory, purely a matter of trade, it'll be a good 
thing, Joe. Mind you, as my lieutenant, Joe." 

Never had I been so Joe'd in all my life before. When 
Gleazen had gone, I fairly snorted at my sudden and easy 
honors. Evidently he told much the same story to the 
others, except Captain North, with whom Gleazen him- 
self very well knew that such a flimsy yarn was not likely 
to prevail, and to whom Uncle Seth, accordingly, en- 
trusted some genuine business ; and half an hour later we 
gathered at the rail to go ashore. 

"Now, then," Captain North said peremptorily, in such 
a way that I knew he was entirely unaware of my recent 
appointment as Gleazen's lieutenant, "now then, lads, 
into the boat all hands together." 

"One moment!" I cried. "I forgot something." And 
with that I ran back. 

In changing my jacket in honor of the call we were to 
make, I had left my pistol behind me. Of no mind to put 
off without it, I hurried down to my stateroom. 



THE MAN FROM THE JUNGLE 177 

Passing through the cabin, I saw that the four men, 
Gleazen, Matterson, the strange Bud, and my uncle, were 
drawing up around the great table, on which they had care- 
lessly thrown a pack of cards. They gave me frowns and 
hard looks as I passed, and I heard them muttering among 
themselves at the interruption ; but with scarcely a thought 
of what they said, I left them to their game. 

No sooner had our boat crunched on the shore than on 
all sides black figures appeared from the darkness, and 
landing, we found ourselves surrounded by negroes, who 
pressed upon us until we fairly had to thrust them back 
with oars. It was the first time I had set foot on the con- 
tinent of Africa, and the place and the people and the cir- 
cumstances were all, to my New England apprehension, 
so extraordinary and so alarming that I cast a reluctant 
glance back at the dim lights of the Adventure. But now 
a door opened, and I saw in the bright rectangle a white 
man in European clothes ; and we went up and shook 
his hand, which seemed for some reason to displease 
him, although he did not actually refuse it, and were 
ushered into a large room with a board floor and chairs 
and tables and pictures, for all the world as if it were a 
regular house. 

" Under some circumstances I should no doubt be glad 
to meet you, gentlemen," he said, with cold reserve, "for 
no ship has visited us for more than three months. But we 
hereabouts are not friendly to slavers." 

"Nor are we," Gideon North retorted. 

"I think, sir," said Arnold Lament, soberly and pre- 
cisely, "that you mistake our errand." 

He looked at us a long time without saying more, then 
he quietly remarked, "I hope so." 

His cold, measured words repelled us and set us at an 
infinite distance from him. 



178 THE GREAT QUEST 

We looked at one another and then at him, and he in 
turn studied us. 

We four for Mr. Severance had accompanied us, al- 
though as usual he scarcely opened his mouth saw a 
man whose iron-gray hair indicated that he was a little 
beyond middle age. The lamp that burned beside him 
revealed a strong, rather sad face ; the book at his elbow 
was a Bible. It came to me suddenly that he was a mis- 
sionary. 

"You give us chill welcome, sir," said Gideon North. 
"What, then, will you have us do to prove that we are not 
what you believe us?" 

"Your leaders who were here a little while ago," our 
host replied, "tried their best to prove it - - and failed. 
Indeed, had I not seen them, I should more readily believe 
you. It is not the first time that I have seen some of them, 
you must remember." 

Gideon North bit his lip. "Have you considered," he 
asked, "that we may not be in accord with them?" 

"A man must be known by the company he keeps." 

"We are in neither sympathy nor accord with them." 

"It is a virtue, sir, no matter what your circumstances, 
to be at least loyal to your associates. If you so glibly re- 
pudiate your friends, on what grounds should a stranger 
trust you?" 

At that Gideon North got up all hot with temper. 
''Sir," he cried, "I will not stay to be insulted." 

"Sir," the man returned, "I have insulted, and would 
insult, no one." 

"Of that, sir," Gideon North responded, "I will be my 
own judge." 

"Captain North," said Arnold, "have patience. One 
moment and we " 



THE MAN FROM THE JUNGLE 179 

Turning in the door, which he had reached in two 
strides, our captain cried hotly, "Come, men, come ! I tell 
you, come!" 

Mr. Severance followed him hi silence ; Arnold stepped 
forward as if to restrain him, and I, left for a moment with 
the missionary, turned and faced him with all the dignity 
of which I was master. 

"I am sorry that you think so ill of us," I said. 

"I am sorry," he replied, "to see a youth with an hon- 
est face in such a band as that." 

I could think of no response and was about to turn and 
go, when I suddenly remembered our lost cabin boy. 

"Can you, in any case," I asked, "tell me what has be- 
come of our cabin boy, Willie MacDougald?" 

"Of whom?" 

"Of Willie MacDougald the little fellow that came 
ashore to-day?" 

"Did he not return to the brig?" 

"No." 

The man stepped forward. 

"No," I repeated, "I have not seen him since." 

"Then," he returned, "you are not likely ever to see 
him again." 

"What do you mean?" I demanded. "What has hap- 
pened? Where is he?" 

Getting no answer, I looked around the room at the 
chairs and tables and pictures, they had an air of com- 
fort that made me miserably homesick, and at the well- 
trimmed lamp from which the light fell on the Bible. Then 
I turned and went out into the darkness. 

What had befallen that hardened little wretch ? Where 
under the canopy of heaven could he be? I cared little 
enough for the mere fate of Willie MacDougald ; but as a 



180 THE GREAT QUEST 

new indication of the extremes to which Matterson and 
Gleazen would go, his disappearance came at a tune that 
made it singularly ominous. 

As I stood, thus pondering, on the rough porch from 
which I was about to step down and stride into the dark- 
ness, where I could make out the figures of negroes of all 
ages moving restlessly just beyond the light that shone 
from the windows, I received such a start as seldom has 
come to me. A hand touched my arm so quietly that for a 
moment I nearly had an illusion that that miserable little 
sinner, Willie MacDougald, had returned from the next 
world to haunt me in this one ; a low voice said in my ear, 
"Stay here with us." 

I turned. Just beside me stood the girl whom I had seen 
in the canoe. 

"Stay here," she repeated. "They have gone." 

I stammered and tried to speak, and for the first time 
in my life I found that my tongue was tied. 

A step rustled in the grass just under the porch ; some- 
thing touched the floor beside my foot ; then a huge black 
hand brushed gently over my shoe and up my leg, and a 
black, grotesque face, with rolling eyes and round, slightly 
parted lips, looked up at me, so close to my hand that un- 
consciously I snatched it away lest it be bitten. 

Startled nearly out of my wits by this amazing appari- 
tion, I gave a leap backward and crashed against the 
wall, at which the absurd negro uttered a shrill whistle of 
surprise. 

The girl tossed her head and stamped her foot, and spoke 
to the negro in a low voice, which yet was clear enough and 
sharp enough to send him without a sound into the dark- 
ness. 

For a moment the lights from the window shone full 
upon her, and I saw that she was proud as well as comely, 



THE MAN FROM THE JUNGLE 181 

and spirited as well as generous. The toss and the stamp 
showed it ; the quick, precise voice confirmed it ; and 
withal there was a twinkle of kindliness in her eyes that 
would have stormed the heart of a far more sophisticated 
youth than I. Such spirit is little, if at all, less fascinating 
to a young man than beauty ; and when spirit and beauty 
go hand in hand, he must be a crabbed old bachelor in- 
deed who can withstand the pair. 

Whatever my theories of life, as I had long since re- 
vealed them to Arnold Lament, I was no Stoic ; and though 
at the time I was too excited to be fully aware of it, I 
thereupon fell, to the crown of my head, in love. 

As the negro vanished, she turned on me with that same, 
queenly lift of her head. 

"Well, sir, will you stay?" 

"Why should I stay?" I managed at last to ask. 

She looked me straight in the eye, "You're not of their 
kind," she replied. "Father himself thinks that." 

For the moment I was confused, and thought only of 
Arnold and Gideon North. 

"You and he are wrong," I stiffly responded. "I am 
their kind, and I am proud to be their kind." 

"Oh," she said, "oh ! I beg your pardon." 

A hurt look appeared in her eyes and she stepped back 
and turned away. 

All at once I remembered that she had never seen Ar- 
nold and Gideon North ; that she had not meant them at 
all ; that she had meant Gleazen and Matterson. It was 
at the tip of my tongue to cry out to her, to call her back, 
to tell her the whole truth about our party on board the 
brig Adventure. I had drawn the very breath to speak, 
when Gideon North's voice summoned me from the 
darkness : 

"Joe, Joe Woods ! Where are you?" 



182 THE GREAT QUEST 

"Here I am," I cried. "I am coming." Then, when I 
turned to speak to the girl, I saw that she had gone. 

I stepped off the porch, tripped, stumbled to my knees, 
got up again, and strode so recklessly down through the 
dark to the river that, before I knew I had reached it, I 
was ankle-deep in water. 

"Well, my man," cried Gideon North, "you seem to be 
in a hurry now, though you were long enough starting." 

Without a word, I got into the boat and took off my 
shoes and poured out the water. It irritated me to see Ar- 
nold looking at me keenly and yet with gentle amusement. 
I had come to have no small respect for Arnold's unusual 
insight. 

All the way back to the brig my head was in such a 
whirl that, for the first time in my waking moments since 
we left Cuba, I completely forgot the one fundamental 
object for which we three were working, to save as far as 
possible poor Seth Upham and his property from the hands 
of Cornelius Gleazen and his fellows. Instead I kept hear- 
ing the voice that had said, "You're not of their kind," 
kept seeing the face that I had seen there in the dun light 
- not at all clearly, yet clearly enough to see that it had 
a sweet dignity and that it was good to look upon. 

The boat bumping against the brig woke me from my 
dreams. Scrambling aboard, I left my shoes in the galley 
to dry by the stove and ran aft hi my stocking feet, and 
down below. In my eagerness to get dry shoes and stock- 
ings I quite outstripped the others, who were loitering in 
the gangway. 

It was with no thought or intention of surprising the 
four men hi the cabin that I burst in upon them on my 
way to my own stateroom. They had pushed cards and 
chips to one side of the table and had gathered closely 
round it. In the centre, where their four heads almost met, 



THE MAN FROM THE JUNGLE 183 

was a handful of rough stones, which for all I knew might 
have been quartz. 

That I had done anything to anger them, when I came 
down so unceremoniously, I was entirely unaware ; but 
O'Hara, the newcomer, sweeping the stones together with 
a curse, covered them with his hands ; Gleazen faced about 
and angrily stared at my stockinged feet ; and Matterson, 
rising in fury, snarled through his teeth, "You sniveling, 
sneaking, prying son of a skulking sea-cook, I swear I'll 
have your heart's blood!" 

Before I could turn, the man dived at me straight across 
the table. I raised my hands to fend him off, with the in- 
tention of shoving his head into the floor and planting my 
feet on the back of his neck ; stepped back, tripped and 
fell. I saw Gleazen lift a chair to bring it down on my 
head even then I thought of the irony of my being his 
"lieutenant"! I saw that wild Irishman, Bud O'Hara, 
laughing like a fiend at my plight. Then I flung up my 
feet to receive the blow, and seizing the legs of the chair, 
twisted it over between Matterson and myself, and got 
up on my knees. Then in came the others. 

Spinning on his heel, Matterson, his jaw out-thrust, 
stood squarely in the path of Gideon North. 

"You are hasty," I said. "I came in to get my shoes." 

"Ah," said Bud O'Hara, in biting sarcasm, "and 
then 't was in the eyes of us that you was looking for 
trouble." 

: It was, indeed," I retorted. 

'And perhaps you did n't see what was going on," he 
persisted. 

"I did not," I replied, not knowing what he meant. 

They looked doubtfully at one another, and then at me, 
and presently Gleazen said, "Then we're sorry we used 
you rough, Joe." 



u 
tc 



184 THE GREAT QUEST 

Meanwhile, I now perceived, the handful of stones had 
disappeared. 

All this time my uncle had sat hi his chair, looking like 
a man in a nightmare, and had raised neither hand nor 
voice to help me. In a way, so amazing was his silence, it 
seemed almost as if he himself had struck me. I could 
scarcely believe it of him. When I looked at him in mingled 
wonder and grief, his eyes fell and he slightly moistened 
his lips. 



CHAPTER XVIII 

A WARNING DEFIED 

THE brig Adventure, two thousand miles from home, 
lay now in the strong, silent current of a great tropical 
river, which seemed to me to have an almost human qual- 
ity. In its depth and strength and silence, it was like a 
determined, taciturn man. I felt keenly its subtle fasci- 
nation ; I delighted to picture in my mind its course all the 
way from the mysterious hills far inland, of which Pedro 
and Gleazen and Matterson told stories filled with trade 
and slaves and stirring incidents, down to the low, marshy 
shore, which had already cast a spell upon me. 

For months since that fearful night when we five fled 
from Topham, Arnold and Gideon North and I had been 
holding ourselves ready at every moment to stand up 
against Gleazen and Matterson and meet them man to 
man in behalf of my poor, deluded uncle, who now would 
go slinking about the deck, now would make a pitiful show 
of his old pompous, dictatorial manner. But when I burst 
in upon them in the cabin, there had been that in their 
manner, even after their anger spent itself, which told me 
more plainly than harshest words that the time for action 
had come very near. 

To Arnold, when we were alone in our stateroom, I said, 
" What would you think, were I to load my pistols afresh ?" 

He looked curiously at me. 

"You think," said he, slowly, "that there is already 
need?" 

"I do," I replied. 

I felt a new confidence in myself and in my own judg- 



186 THE GREAT QUEST 

ment. I regarded our situation calmly and with growing 
assurance. Although I did not then realize it, I know now 
that I was crossing the threshold between youth and man- 
hood. 

He gravely nodded. 

"It is a wise precaution," he said at last, "although I 
prophesy that they will use us further before the time 
comes when we must fight for our lives." 

So we both slept that night with new charges in the pis- 
tols by our heads, and Arnold, very likely, as well as I, 
dreamed of the utterly reckless, lawless men with whom 
we were associated. I question, though, if Arnold thought 
as much as I of the stern man in the cane house on the 
river-bank, or if he thought at all of the girl whose white 
face and dark eyes I could not forget. 

For another day we continued to lie in the river ; but 
the brig, alow and aloft, bustled with various activities. 
We sorted out firearms on the cabin floor, and charts and 
maps on the cabin table, and on the spar-deck we piled a 
large store of provisions. And in the afternoon Matterson 
took Captain North in the quarter boat down to the 
mouth of the river, and there taught him the bearings of 
the channel. 

Side by side Arnold and I watched all that went for- 
ward, here lending a hand at whatever task came OUT way, 
there noting keenly how the stores were arranged. 

"Well, sir," said Arnold, quietly, when Captain North 
for a moment stood beside us in preoccupied silence, "are 
we about to load a cargo of Africans?' 

"I assure you I'd like to know that," the captain re- 
plied, with one of his quick glances. 

Uncle Seth gave me an occasional curt word or sentence 

- he was in one of his arrogant moods ; Matterson talked 

to me vaguely and at length of great times ahead ; O'Hara 



A WARNING DEFIED 187 

watched me with hostile and suspicious glances. And still 
Arnold and I, whenever occasion offered, put our heads to- 
gether and made what we could of the various prepara- 
tions. Our surmises, time showed, were not far wrong. 

And all this while I had watched the clearing ashore and 
had seen neither the missionary nor any other white man. 

When, in the evening, all hands were ordered aft, we on 
the quarter deck looked down and saw the men standing 
expectantly to hear whatever was to be said. A thousand 
rumors had spread throughout the vessel, and of what 
was really afoot they knew less, even, than Arnold and I. 
There was Abe Guptil with his kindly face upturned, 
Pedro with his monkey on his shoulder and what seemed 
to me a devilish gleam in his eye, and all the rest. As they 
gathered close under us, the light from the lanterns slung in 
the rigging revealed every one of them to my curious gaze. 

"Men," said Captain North, quietly, "Mr. Gleazen has 
asked me to call you together. There are certain things 
that he wishes to tell you." 

As the grizzled old mariner stepped back, Cornelius 
Gleazen advanced. 

His beaver, donned for the occasion, was tilted over his 
eye as of old ; his diamonds flashed from finger and throat ; 
he puffed great clouds of smoke from his ever-present 
cigar. 

"Lads," he cried in that voice which seemed always so 
fine and hearty and honest, "lads, that there's no ordi- 
nary purpose in this voyage, all of you, I make no doubt, 
have heard. Well, lads, you 're right about that. It is no 
ordinary purpose that has brought us all the way from 
Boston. You Ve done good work for us so far, and if you 
keep up the good work until the end of the voyage has 
brought us home again to New England, we ain't going to 
forget you, lads. No, sir ! Not me and Mr. Matterson and 



188 THE GREAT QUEST 

Mr. O'Hara - - oh, yes, and Mr. Upham ! We ain't going 
to forget you." 

Reflectively he knocked the ash from his cigar. Leaning 
over the rail, he said, as if taking all the men into his con- 
fidence, "All you've got to do now, lads, is stand by. 
Captain North will take the brig to sea for one week. 
There's a reason for that, lads, a good reason. At the end 
of the week he will bring the brig up off the mouth of the 
river, and some fine morning you'll wake up and find us 
back again. 

"Meanwhile, lads, we're going to make up a little party 
to go exploring. Me and Mr. Matterson, Mr. O'Hara, Mr. 
Upham, and Pedro and Sanchez are going. And we are 
going to take John Laughlin with us, too. It 's going to be 
a hard trip, lads, and you '11 none of you be sorry to miss it. 
Now, then, lay to and load this gear into the boat. Be 
faithful to your work, and you'll be glad when you see 
what we're going to do for you." 

As he turned away, proud of his eloquence, there was a 
low rumble of voices. 

I looked first at Gleazen and Matterson and O'Hara ; 
then I looked at poor Seth Upham, once as proud and arro- 
gant as any of them. Remembering how in little ways he 
had been kind to me, how, since my mother died, his 
dry, hard affection had gone out to me, as if in spite of 
him, - 1 pitied the man from the bottom of my heart. 
Surely, I thought, he must not go alone into the wilds of 
Africa with such men as were to make up Gleazen's party. 

No one had spoken, except in undertones, since Gleazen ; 
some one, I thought, must speak promptly and firmly. 

For a moment, as I looked at the hard faces of the men 
whom I must oppose, my courage forsook me utterly ; then 
the new confidence that had been growing within me once 
more gave me command of myself. Whatever should come 



A WARNING DEFIED 189 

of my effort, I was determined that my mother's brother 
should have at least one honest man beside him. To rea- 
son out all this had taken me the merest fraction of the 
time that it takes to read it. 

Stepping suddenly forward, I said in a voice so decided 
that it surprised me as much as anyone, if not more : 

"Mr. Gleazen, I desire to go with you." 

"And I," said Arnold Lament. 

''You young pup," Gleazen bellowed, "who are you to 
desire this or desire that?' : 

"Then," said I, "I will go with you." 

"You will not," he retorted. 

I saw out of the corner of my eye that Matterson and 
O'Hara were looking at me keenly, but I never let my 
gaze veer from Gleazen's. 

"Mr. Gleazen," I said boldly, "Arnold Lamont, Abe 
Gup til, and I are going to take the places of Pedro, San- 
chez, and John Laughlin." 

He swore a round oath and stepped toward me with his 
fists clenched, while the men below us fairly held their 
breath. In a fist fight the man could have pounded me to 
a pulp, for he was half as heavy again as I ; but at the 
thought of poor Uncle Seth with all his property tied up 
in that mad venture, with his happiness and his very life 
in the absolute power of that band of godless reprobates, 
something stronger than myself rose up within me. At 
that moment I verily believe I could have faced the fires 
of hell without flinching. Thinking of the old days when 
Uncle Seth and my mother and I had been so happy to- 
gether and of how kind he had been to me in his own 
testy, abrupt, reserved way, I stepped out and shook my 
fist in Gleazen's face. 

Before he could say another word, I cried, "So help me, 
unless we three go with you and those three stay, we'll 



190 THE GREAT QUEST 

keep Seth Upham back and sail away in the Adventure 
and leave you here forever." 

Never before could I have spoken thus lightly of what 
my uncle should, or should not, do. The thought made me 
feel even more keenly how helpless the poor man had be- 
come, and confirmed me in my purpose. 

It was on the tip of my tongue to add that Gideon 
North was to come, too, but I thought of how essential it 
was that someone whom we - - Arnold and I could 
trust should stand guard upon the brig, and said nothing 
more, which probably was better, for my words seemed to 
have struck home. 

When I threatened to sail away with the Adventure, 
Gleazen glared at me hard and murmured, with a respect 
and admiration in his voice that surprised me, "You 
young cock, I did n't think you had it in you." 

Throwing overboard the butt of his cigar, which made 
a bright arc in its flight through the darkness and fell into 
the water with a smart hiss, he smiled to himself. 

Matterson whispered to O'Hara, w T ho touched Gleazen's 
arm. I thought I heard him say, "Too honest to make 
trouble," as they drew apart and conferred together, 
glancing now and then at my uncle ; then Gleazen nodded 
and said, "Very well, Joe " ; and I knew that for once I had 
come off victorious. 

At least, I thought, we are strong enough to stand up 
for our rights and Uncle Seth's. 

The men quietly turned away and went forward, a little 
disappointed that the trouble had blown past and the epi- 
sode had come to naught. But it had added one more issue 
to be fought out between Cornelius Gleazen and myself ; 
and though it was over, it was neither forgotten nor for- 
given. 

I had gone into the waist, where I was watching the 



A WARNING DEFIED 191 

arms and provisions that the men were loading into the 
boat we were to take, when I heard a voice at my ear, "I 
guess ha-ha ! you come back with plenty nigger, 
hey?" 

It was Pedro with his monkey riding on his shoulder. 
The beast leered at me and clicked its teeth. 

"No," I replied, "of that I am sure. We are not going 
after any such cargo as that." 

"I wonder," he responded. "I t'ink, hey, queer way to 
get nigger no barracoon go in a boat. But dah 
plenty nigger food below. Plenty lumber. Plenty chain'. 
What you get if not nigger?' 1 

I said nothing. 

"Maybe so maybe not," Pedro muttered. His ear- 
rings tinkled as he shook his head and moved away. 

I was surprised to observe that for the moment all work 
had stopped. 

Seeing that O'Hara was pointing into the swamp, I 
stepped over beside him to ascertain what had caught 
his attention, but found the darkness impenetrable. 

"I'm telling ye, some one's there," O'Hara muttered 
with an oath. 

I saw that Gleazen and Matterson were on the other 
side of him. 

Now the men were whispering. 

"Sh!" 

"See there there there it goes !" 

"What --Oh! There it is!" 

I myself saw that something vague and shadowy was 
moving indistinctly toward us down one of the long lanes 
of water. 

Suddenly out of the swamp came a piercing wail. It 
was so utterly unhuman that to every one of us it brought, 
I believe, a nameless terror. Certainly I can answer for 



192 THE GREAT QUEST 

myself. It was as if some creature from another world had 
suddenly found a voice and were crying out to us. Then 
the wail was repeated, and then, as if revealed by some 
preparation of phosphorus, I indistinctly saw, in the dark 
of the swamp, an uncouth face, black as midnight, on which 
were painted white rings and patches. 

For the third tune the cry came out to us ; then a voice 
shrieked in a queer, wailing minor : - 

" White man, I come 'peak. Long time past white man 
go up water. Him t'ief from king spirit. Hun go Dead 
Land. 

" White man, I come 'peak. We no sell slave. White 
man go him country so him not go Dead Land. White 
man, I go." 

The dim, mysterious face drew away little by little and 
disappeared. A single soft splash came from the great 
marsh, then a yell so wild and weird that to this very day 
the memory of it sometimes sets me to shivering, as if I 
myself were only a heathen savage and not a white man 
and a Christian. 

Three times we heard the wild yell ; then far off in the 
fastnesses of the swamp, we heard an unholy chanting. 
It was high and shrill and piercing, and it brought to us 
across the dark water suggestions of a thousand terrors. 

I felt Bud O'Hara's hand on mine, and it was as cold 
as death. 



ee 



CHAPTER XIX 

BURNED BRIDGES 

: BY Heaven !" O'Hara gasped, "the voice has spoke." 
1 Aye, so it has," said Gleazen slowly. 
: Neil, Molly, sure and we'd best put out to sea. This 
is no time for us, surely. A month from now, say, we 
could slip hi by night with a boat 

"O'Hara," said Matterson's light, almost silvery voice, 
"have you turned coward?' 

"No, not that, Molly ! 'T is not I am scairt of any man 
that walks the green earth, Molly, but spirits is different." 

"Spirits!" Matterson was softly laughing. "I didn't 
think, O'Hara, you'd be one to turn black." 

"Laugh, curse you!" O'Hara cried hotly. "If 'twas 
you had seen a glimmer of the things I've seen with my 
own two eyes ; if 't was you had seen a man die because he 
went against taboo ; if 't was you had seen a witch doctor 
bring the yammering spirit back unwilling to a cold body ; 
if 't was you had seen a man three weeks dead get up and 
dance ; if 't was you had seen a strong man fall down with- 
out the breath of life in him at all, and all for nothing eW 
but a spell was on him, maybe then you'd believe me. I 
swear by the blessed saints in heaven, it's throwing our 
lives away to go up river now ; and all I 've got to say for 
Bull is, God help him!" 

The others were looking at O'Hara curiously. The lan- 
tern light on their faces brought out every scar and wrinkle 
and showed that strong passions were contending within 
each of them. 

"It ain't spirits that worries me," said Gleazen, at last, 



194 THE GREAT QUEST 

"and it ain't niggers. It's men." He now seemed quite to 
shake off the spell of the strange voice. "What say, 
Seth?" He turned to my uncle. 

To my surprise, Seth Upham rose manfully to the oc- 
casion. "Spirits?" he cried. "Nonsense!" 

O'Hara uneasily shifted his feet. "Ah, say what you 
like, men," he very earnestly replied, "say what you like 
against spirits and greegrees and jujus and all the rest. 
I'll never be one to say there's nothing in them, nor 
would you, if you 'd seen all that I have seen. And I '11 be 
telling you this, men : that voice we heard then was speak- 
ing the thoughts of ten thousand fighting niggers up and 
down this river." 

"Pfaw!" said Gleazen, stretching his arms. "Niggers 
won't fight." 

"That from you, Neil!" 

I never learned just what lay behind O'Hara's simple 
thrust, but there was no doubt that it struck a weak link 
in Gleazen's armor, for he flushed so deeply that w T e could 
see it by lantern light. "Well, now," said he, with a con- 
ciliatory inflection, "of course I meant it in moderation." 

All this time Arnold and Gideon North and I stood by 
and looked and listened. 

Now, with a glance at us, Matterson said shortly, 
"Come, come! Enough of that. All hands lay to and 
load the boat." 

"I've warned ye," said O'Hara. 

"At midnight," said Matterson, "we'll go up the river, 
and Gideon North '11 take the brig down the river. Come 
morning there '11 be no stick nor timber of us here. They '11 
bother no more about us then." 

"Ye '11 never fool 'em," said O'Hara. 

Matterson turned his back on him, and the work went 
forward, and for an hour there was only the low murmur 



BURNED BRIDGES 195 

of voices. The boat, now ready for the journey, rode at 
the end of her painter, where the current made long ripples, 
which converged at her bow. Here and there, lights shone 
in the clearing and set my imagination and my memory 
hard at work, but elsewhere the impenetrable blackness 
of a cloudy night blanketed the whole world. And mean- 
while the others were holding council in the cabin. 

"I think," Arnold Lament said, "that Matterson and 
Gleazen underestimate the ingenuity and resources of that 
black yelling devil." 

"So they do," said Abe Guptil. "So they do, and I'd 
be glad enough to be back home, I tell you." 

What would I not have given to be sleeping once more 
in Abe's low-studded house beside our wholesome north- 
ern sea ! 

Now the others came from the cabin. They walked 
eagerly. Their very whispers were full of excitement. 
Even Uncle Seth seemed to have got from somewhere a 
new confidence and a new hope, so smartly did he step 
about and so sharply did he speak ; and the faint odor of 
brandy that came with them explained much. 

We climbed down into the loaded boat and settled our- 
selves on the thwarts, where Abe Guptil and I took oars. 

"It's turn and turn about at the rowing," Matterson 
announced. "We've a long way to go and a current dead 
against us." 

I saw Gideon North looking down at us anxiously, and 
waved my hand. Then someone cast off, and we pulled out 
into midstream and up above the brig, where we held our 
place and watched and waited. 

Soon we heard orders on board the brig. Sails fell 
from the gaskets and shook free. The men began to heave 
at the windlass. The brig first came up to the anchors, 
then, with anchors aweigh, she half turned in the current. 



19G THE GREAT QUEST 

Now orders followed in quick succession. We could hear 
them rigging the fish tackle and catching the hooks on the 
flukes of the anchors. Blocks rattled, braces creaked, the 
yards swung from side to side according to the word of 
command. The sails filled with the light breeze, and com- 
ing slowly about, the Adventure gathered steerage-way 
and went down the river as if she were some gigantic water 
bird lazily swimming between the mangroves. We watched 
her go and knew that we seven were now irrevocably left 
to fend for ourselves. 

When Gleazen whispered to us to give way, we bent to 
the oars with a will. For better or for worse, we had em- 
barked on the final stage of our great quest. 

The lights in the clearing fell astern. The tall trees 
seemed to close in above us. Alone in the wilderness, we 
turned the bow of our boat toward the heart of Africa. 

That we had set forth in complete secrecy on our voy- 
age up river we were absolutely confident. What eyes 
were keen enough to tell at a distance that the brig had 
left a boat behind her when she sailed ? 

Gleazen now laughed derisively at O'Hara. "You'd 
have had us sail away, would you? And wait a month? 
Or a year, maybe, or maybe two. Ha, ha !" 

"Don't you laugh at me, Neil," O'Hara replied. "We're 
not yet out o' the woods." 

At the man's solemn manner Gleazen laughed again, 
louder than before. 

As if to reprove his rashness, as if to bear out every 
word O'Hara had said, at that very moment the uncanny 
yell we had heard before rose the second time, far off in the 
swamp. Three times we heard the yell, then we heard the 
voice, fault and far away, "White man, I come 'peak. 
White man boat him sink. White man him go Dead Land." 

Three times more the wordless wailing yell drifted to us 



BURNED BRIDGES 



197 



out of the darkness ; then we heard a great multitude of 
men wildly and savagely laughing. 

Never again did Cornelius Gleazen scoff at O'Hara. His 
face now, I verily believe, was grayer than O'Hara's. He 
turned about and stared downstream as if he could see 
beyond the black wall of mangroves. 

"Now what '11 we do?" he gasped, with a choking, pro- 
fane ejaculation. "Did you hear that?" 

Had we heard it ! There was not one of us whom it had 
not chilled to the heart. Our own smallness under those 
vast trees, our few resources, we had only the goods 
that were piled in the boat, our unfathomable loneli- 
ness, combined to make us feel utterly without help or 
strength. But it was now too late to return. So we bent 
to our oars and rowed on, and on, and on, against the cur- 
rent of the great river. 

The only help that remained to us lay in our own right 
hands and in the mercy of divine Providence. Would 
Providence, I wondered, help such men as Gleazen and 
Matterson and O'Hara? 

Nor was that the only doubt that beset us. Although 
the three accepted us, and in actual fact trusted us, they 
made no attempt to conceal their enmity ; and I very well 
knew that, besides danger from without our little band, 
Arnold, Abe, and I must guard against treachery from 
within it. 




THE HOUSE ON THE HILL 



rmsBf% 




CHAPTER XX 

UP STREAM 

PULLING hard at our oars, we rowed up the river, along 
the shore and so near it that the shadows of the man- 
groves almost concealed us. My breath came in quick, 
hard gasps ; the sweat started from my body and dripped 
down my face ; every muscle ached from violent exer- 
tion. As I dizzily reeled, I saw, as if it were carved out of 
wood or stone, Gleazen's staring, motionless face thrust 
forth squarely in front of my own. Then I flopped forward 
and Gleazen himself caught the oar from my hands. 

We had taken the gig for our expedition, because it was 
light and fast ; but although we carried four oars, we used 
only two of them, mainly because it had been Gleazen's 
whim to load our baggage between the after thwarts, so 
that while two men rowed for comparatively short spells, 
the others could take their ease in bow and stern. And 
indeed, had our plan to set forth with utmost secrecy 
not gone awry, it would have been a comfortable enough 
arrangement. 

I had not dreamed that Gleazen was so strong ; he set a 
stroke that no ordinary oarsman could maintain ; and 
when Abe Guptil lost time and reeled on the thwart, Mat- 
terson slipped into his place and fairly lifted the boat on 
the water. 

Of course we could not keep up such a pace for long ; but 
the hard work in a way relieved our anxiety, as hard work 
does when one is troubled ; and after each of us, including 
Uncle Seth, had taken his turn at the oars until he was 
dog-tired, we settled down to a saner, steadier stroke, and 



02 THE GREAT QUEST 



ono 

*-\J-i 



thus began in earnest the long journey that was to be the 
last stage of our pilgrimage. 

By watching the gray lane overhead, where the arching 
trees failed to meet above the river, since it was literally 
too dark to see the water, we were able to mark out our 
course ; and skirting the tangled and interwoven roots as 
nearly as we could, we doggedly fought our way against 
the current to the monotonous rhythm of swinging oars, 
loud breathing, and hoarse grunts. The constant whisper 
of the river so lulled me, weary as I was, that by and by 
my head drooped, and the next thing that I knew was a 
hand on my shoulder and a voice at my ear calling me to 
take my turn at rowing. 

I woke slowly and saw that Abe Guptil like me was rub- 
bing his eyes, and that my uncle and Arnold Lament were 
lying fast asleep on the bottom of the boat. 

"Come, come," said Gleazen, quietly. " See, now! Mr. 
Matterson and I've brought us well on our way. Come, 
get up and row till it is fairly light. Wake us then, and 
we'll haul the boat up and lie in hiding for the day." 

Matterson handed over his oar without a word, and 
Abe and I fell to our task. 

As the dawn grew and widened in the east, w r e could see 
how thickly the roots of the mangroves intertwined. From 
the ends of the limbs small "hangers," like ropes, grew 
down and took root in the ground. The trees, thus braced 
and standing from six to twelve feet hi air on their net- 
work of tangled, interwoven roots, were the oddest I had 
ever seen. 

After a tune we came to a large stretch of bush, where 
innumerable small palms were crowded together so thickly 
that among them an object would have been completely 
invisible, even in broad day, at a distance of six feet. In 
the midst of the bush a great tree grew, and in the top of 



UP STREAM 203 

it a band of monkeys was swinging and racing and chat- 
tering in the pale light. In an undertone I spoke to Abe 
about the monkeys, and he, too, still rowing, turned his 
head to watch them. Then, at the very moment when we 
were intent on their antics, a new mood seemed to come 
over them. 

I cannot well describe the change, because at first it was 
so subtle that I felt it, as much as saw it, and I was in- 
clined to doubt if Abe would notice it at all. Yet as I 
watched the little creatures, which had now ceased their 
chattering, I suddenly realized that the boat was begin- 
ning to drift with the current. By common impulse, at- 
tracted by the very same thing, both Abe and I had 
stopped rowing. 

As I leaned forward and again swung out my oar, Abe 
touched my arm. "Hush!" he whispered. "Wait! 
Listen!" 

Pausing with arms outstretched, ready to throw all my 
strength into the catch, I listened and heard a faint crack, 
as of a broken stick, under the tree in which a moment 
since the monkeys had been hard at play. 

We exchanged glances. 

I now realized that daylight, coming with the swiftness 
that is characteristic of it in the tropics, had taken us un- 
awares. The sun had risen and found Abe and me so intent 
on a band of monkeys playing hi a tree, that we had ne- 
glected to wake the others. 

I put out my hand and leaned over the bags to touch 
Gleazen, the nearest of the sleepers, when Abe again 
pressed my arm. Turning, I saw that his finger was at his 
lips. Although his gesture puzzled me, I obeyed it, and 
we remained silent for a minute or two while the current 
carried the boat farther and farther downstream. 

Every foot that we drifted back meant labor lost, and 



204 THE GREAT QUEST 

I was so sorely tempted to put an end to our silence that 
I was on the point of speaking out, when, distinctly, un- 
mistakably, we heard another crackle in the bush. 

"Pull," Abe whispered, "pull, Joe, as hard as you can." 

I leaned back against my oar, heard the water gurgle 
from under it, saw bubbles go floating down past the 
stern, and knew that by one stroke we had stopped our 
drifting. With a second swing of the long blades, we sent 
the boat once more up against the current. Now we got 
back into the old rhythm and went on past the dense 
palms, until we again came to the tangled roots of man- 
groves. 

Laying hold of one of the roots, Abe whispered, "Wake 
'em, Joe!" 

They woke testily, and with no thanks to us, even 
though it was by their orders that we called them. 

In reply to their questions we told them the whole story, 
from the strange hush that came over the monkeys to the 
second crackling among the palms ; but they appeared not 
to take our apprehensions seriously. 

"Belike it was a snake," said O'Hara, "a big feller. 
Them big fellers will scare a monkey into fits." 

"Or some kind of an animal," said Gleazen, curtly. 
"Did n't I say we was to be called at daylight? When I 
say a thing I mean it." He impatiently turned from us to 
his intimates. "How about it, Bud ; shall we haul up here 
for the day?" 

"Belike it was only a snake," O'Hara replied, "but 
't was near, despite of that. Push on, I say." 

There was something in the expression of his face as he 
stared downstream that made me even more uneasy than 
before. 

"Not so ! The niggers will see us in the open and end us 
there and then," interposed Matterson. "Moreover, un- 



UP STREAM 205 

less the place has changed with the times, there's a town 
a scant three miles ahead." 

" Belike 'twas only a serpent," O'Hara doggedly re- 
peated, "but 't is no place for us here. Let us fare on just 
half a mile up stream t 'other side the river, in the mouth 
of the little creek that makes in there, and, me lads, let us 
get there quickly." 

As we once more began to row, I was confident that 
O'Hara's talk of a great serpent was poppy-cock for us 
and for Uncle Seth, and that in any case neither Gleazen 
nor Matterson nor O'Hara cared a straw about a serpent 
half a mile away. At the time I would have given much to 
know just what shrewd guess they had made at the cause 
of that strange crackling ; but they dismissed the subject 
absolutely, which probably was as well for all concerned ; 
and refusing to speak of it again, they urged Abe and me 
to our rowing until at their direction we bore across the 
current and slipped through the trailing branches of the 
trees, and through the thick bushes and dangling vines, 
into the well-hidden mouth of a little creek. 

By then the sun was shining hotly and I was glad 
enough to lean on my oar and get my breath. 

All that day we lay in the thick vegetation of the creek, 
which to a certain extent shielded us from the sun, al- 
though the warm, damp air became almost unendurable. 
Much of the time we slept, but always one or another of 
us was posted as a guard, and at high noon an alarm called 
us to our weapons. 

O'Hara, who happened to be standing watch, woke us 
without a sound, one after another, by touching us with 
his hand. 

For a while we saw only the great trees, the sluggish 
creek, the slow river, and the interwoven vines ; then we 



206 THE GREAT QUEST 

heard voices, and into our sight there swept a long canoe 
manned by naked negroes, who swung their paddles 
strongly and went racing past us down the river. 

How, I wondered, had O'Hara known that they were 
coming? Human ears could not have heard their voices 
as far away as they must have been when he woke us. 

It was evident, when the blacks had gone, that Mat- 
terson and O'Hara had made sense of their mumbled gut- 
teral speech. 

"I warned ye," O'Hara whispered, glaring at Matter- 
son and Gleazen. "Had we waited, now, say only a 
month, they'd not be scouring the river in search of us." 

"Pfaw ! Niggers with bows and arrows," Gleazen scorn- 
fully muttered. 

Yes, niggers with bows and arrows," O'Hara returned. 
But I'd no sooner die by an arrow than by a musket- 
ball." 

"Die? Who's talking o' dying?" Gleazen whispered. 
And calmly laying himself down again, he once more closed 
his eyes. 

"Sure, and I'd not be one to talk o' dying," O'Hara 
murmured, as he resumed his guard with a musket across 
his knees, "was not the curse o' rash companions upon 



it 
it 



me.' 



Matterson, holding aloof from their controversy, sol- 
emnly looked from one of the two to the other. There was 
that in his eyes which I did not like to see - - not fear, cer- 
tainly, but a look of understanding, which convinced me 
that O'Hara had the right of it. 

And now Seth Upham, who had followed all this so 
sleepily that he did not more than half understand the sig- 
nificance of what had occurred, as of old spoke up sharply, 
even pompously. In that confused state between sleeping 
and waking his mind seemed to have gone back to some 



UP STREAM 207 

mood of months before. "That's all nonsense, O'Hara; 
we're safe enough. Gleazen's right." His words fairly 
shattered the silence of the marshy woods. 

He was the first of us to speak in an ordinarily loud 
voice, and almost before he had finished his sentence a 
bird about as big as a crow and as black as jet except for 
its breast and neck, which were snowy white, rose from a 
tree above us, and with a cry that to me sounded for all 
the world like a crow cawing, circled high in the air. 

Hot with anger, O'Hara struck Seth Upham on the 
mouth with his open hand. 

That it had been arrant folly for my uncle thus to speak 
aloud, I knew as well as any other ; and the bird circling 
above us and crying out in its slow flight was liable to draw 
upon us an attack from heaven only knew what source 
and quarter. But that O'Hara or any other should openly 
strike the man who in his own way had been so kind to 
me was something that I could not endure, and my own 
temper flamed up as hotly as ever did O'Hara's. 

Quick as a flash I caught his wrist, even before he had 
withdrawn his hand, and jerked him from the thwart to 
his knees. With a devilish gleam in his eye, he threw off 
my grip and clubbed his musket. 

Before I could draw my pistol he would have brained 
me, had not Matterson, with no desire whatever to save 
me from such a fate, but apparently only eager to have a 
hand in the affair, seized me from behind, lifted me bodily 
from my seat, and plunged me down out of sight into the 
ereek. 

Of what followed, I know only by hearsay, for I was too 
much occupied with saving myself from drowning to ob- 
serve events in the boat. But the creek was comparatively 
shallow, and getting my feet firmly planted on bottom, I 
pushed up my head and breathed deeply. 



208 THE GREAT QUEST 

Meanwhile it seems that Arnold Lament quietly thrust 
his knife a quarter of an inch through the skin between 
two of Matterson's ribs, thus effectually distracting his 
attention, while Abe Guptil deftly caught OTIara's 
clubbed musket in his hands and wrenched it away. 

As I hauled myself back into the boat, Gleazen sat up 
and stared, first at the others who, now that Matterson 
had knocked Arnold's knife to one side, were momentar- 
ily deadlocked, then at me dripping from my plunge, then 
at Seth Upham upon whose white face the marks of 
O'Hara's hand still showed red. 

"Between you," he whispered angrily, "you will have 
half the niggers hi Africa upon us." 

"He talked," O'Hara muttered, pointing at Uncle Seth. 

"You struck him," I retorted. 

" 'T was a bird told me they was coming by. 'Twill 
be that bird surely will tell them we are here." 

Arnold and Abe and I glared angrily at O'Hara and Mat- 
terson and Gleazen, but by common consent we dropped 
the brief quarrel, and when, after an anxious time of wait- 
ing, the canoe had not reappeared, we again lay down to 
sleep. 

Yet I saw that Uncle Seth's hand was trembling and 
that he was not so calm as he tried to appear ; and I knew 
that, although we might go on with a semblance of toler- 
ance, even of friendship, the rift in our little party had 
grown vastly wider. 

Waking at nightfall, we made our evening meal of such 
cooked provisions as we had brought from the Adventure, 
and pushed through the screen of dense branches, and out 
on the strongly running, silent river. Again we bent to the 
oars and rowed interminably on against the stream and 
into the black darkness. 

That night we passed a town with wattled houses and 



UP STREAM 209 

thatched roofs rising in tall cones high on the riverbank, 
and a building that O'Hara said was a barre or courthouse. 
In the town, we saw against the sky, which the rising 
moon now lighted, a few orange trees and palms, and under 
it, close beside the bank of the river, we indistinctly made 
out a boat, which, Gleazen whispered, was very likely 
loaded with camwood and ivory. We passed it in the shad- 
ow of the opposite shore, rowing softly because we were 
afraid that someone might be sleeping on the cargo to 
guard it, and went by and up the river till the pointed 
roofs of the houses were miles astern. 

O'Hara and Gleazen and Matterson talked together, 
and part of their talk was bickering among themselves, 
and part was of the man Bull who, all alone in the wilder- 
ness, was waiting for us somewhere in the jungle, and part 
was in Spanish, which I could not understand. But when 
they talked in Spanish, they looked keenly at Arnold and 
Abe and me, and I found comfort, then in thinking that, 
although Arnold and I now had no chance to exchange 
confidences, he was hearing and remembering every word 
of their conversation. And all the time that I watched 
them, I was thinking of the girl at the mission. 

Remembering my talk with Arnold long ago, when I had 
expressed so poor an opinion of all womankind, I felt at 
once a little amused at myself and a little sheepish. Who 
would have thought that, at almost my first sight of the 
despised continent of Africa, I should see a girl whose face 
I could not forget? That when she spoke to me for the 
first time, her low, firm voice would so fasten itself upon 
my memory, that I should hear it in my dreams both sleep- 
ing and waking ? 

Poor Uncle Seth ! Never offering to take an oar, never 
exchanging a word with any of the rest of us, he sat with 
his elbows on his knees and his head bowed. Gleazen and 



210 THE GREAT QUEST 

Matterson had dropped even their unkindly humorous 
pretense of deferring to him. In our little band of adven- 
turers he who had once been so assertive, so brimful of im- 
portance, had become the merest nonentity. 

All that night we went up the river, and all the next day 
we lay concealed among the mangroves; but about the 
following midnight we came to a place where the banks 
were higher and the current swifter. Here O'Hara stood 
up in the bow of the boat and studied the shore and or- 
dered us now to row, now to rest. For all of two miles we 
advanced thus, and heartily tired of his orders we were, 
when he directed us to veer sharply to larboard and enter 
a small creek, along the banks of which tall water-grass 
grew right down to the channel. 

There was barely room for the boat to pass along the 
stream between the forests of grass which grew in the 
water on the two sides ; but as we advanced, the tall grass 
disappeared, and the stream itself became narrower and 
swifter, and the banks became higher. The country, we 
now saw, was heavily timbered, and we occasionally came 
to logs, which we had to pry out of the way before we 
could pass. One moment we would be in water up to our 
necks, another we would be poling the boat along with the 
oars, until at last we grounded on a bar over which only a 
runlet gurgled. 

There was a suggestion of dawn in the east, which re- 
vealed above and beyond the wood a line of low, bare hills ; 
but when I looked at the wood itself, through which we 
must find our way, my courage oozed out by every pore 
and left me wishing from the bottom of my heart that I 
were safe at sea with Gideon North. 

Piling all our goods on the bank, we hid the boat hi the 
bushes and made camp. 

"Hard upon daylight, we'll be starting," said O'Hara, 



UP STREAM 211 

hoarsely. " Sleep is it, you ask? Don't that give you your 
while of sleep? Be about it. By dark, we'll reach him 
surely ; and if not, we'll be in the very shadow of the hill." 

The man was all a-quiver with excitement. He jerked 
his shoulders and twitched his fingers and rolled his eyes. 
Matterson and Gleazen, too, were softly laughing as they 
stepped a little apart from the rest of us. 

I looked at Arnold. 

He stood with one hand raised. "What was that?" he 
asked in a low voice. 

Very faintly, very, very far away, we heard just 
such a yell as we had heard that night when in defiance of 
the wizard's warning we left the Adventure. 

Coming to our ears at the particular moment when we 
most firmly believed that by consummate craft we had so 
concealed our progress up the river as to escape every 
prying eye and deceive every hostile black, it both taunted 
us and threatened us. Three times we heard it, faintly, 
then silence, deep and ominous, ensued. 



CHAPTER XXI 

A GRIM SURPRISE 

To sleep at that moment would have required more than 
human self-control. Forgetting every personal grudge, 
every cause of enmity, we huddled together, seven men 
alone in an alien wilderness, and waited, listened, 
waited. I, for one, more than half expected, and very 
deeply feared, to hear coming from the darkness that 
ghostly voice which had cried to us twice already, " White 
man, I come 'peak." But, except for the whisper of the 
wind and the ripple of the creek, there was no sound to be 
heard. 

The wind gently stirred the leaves, and the creek sang 
as it flowed down over the gravel and away through the 
reeds. The moon cast its pale light upon us, and the re- 
mote stars twinkled in the heavens. The cries, after that 
second repetition, died away, and at that moment did not 
come back. But our night of adventure was not yet at 
an end. 

O'Hara deliberately leveled his index finger at the bed 
of the stream above us. "Sure, now, and there do be 
someone there," he whispered. "Watch now ! Watch me ! " 

Stepping forward, with a slow, tigerish motion, he 
slightly raised his voice. "Come you out!" he said dis- 
tinctly. Then he spoke in a gibberish of which I could 
make no more sense than if it had been so much Spanish. 

Before our very eyes, silently, there rose from the 
undergrowth a great negro with a spear. 

Arnold Lament gave a quick gasp and I saw steel flash 
in the moonlight as his hand moved. Gleazen swore ; 



A GRIM SURPRISE 213 

Matterson started to his feet ; Abe Guptil came suddenly 
to a crouching position. But O'Hara, after one sharply in- 
drawn breath, uttered a name and whispered something 
in that same language, which I knew well I had never 
heard before, and the negro answered him in kind. 

For a moment they talked rapidly ; then O'Hara turned 
to his comrades and in a frightened undertone said, "The 
black devils know the worst." 

"Well?" retorted Gleazen, angrily. "What of it?" 

"This" O'Hara's leveled finger indicated the negro 
"is Kaw-tah-bah." 

"Well?" Gleazen reiterated, still more angrily. 

"The war has razed his village to the ground." 

Matterson now stepped forward and looked closely into 
the negro's face. Gleazen followed him. 

"He laid down eight slave money," said O'Hara. "It 
was no good. They knew he was our friend. His wives, his 
children, his old father, all are dead." 

Now Matterson spoke in the same strange tongue, 
slowly and hesitantly, but so that the negro understood 
him and answered him. 

"He says," O'Hara translated, "that Bull built the 
house on the king's grave, and they feared him, because 
he is a terrible man ; and because they feared him they 
left him alone in his house and brought the war to his 
friend, Kaw-tah-bah. Kaw-tah-bah's people are slaves. 
His wives, his children, his old father, all are dead. But 
he did not betray the secret." 

Again Matterson spoke and again the negro answered. 

"He says," cried O'Hara, "that Bull is waiting there on 
the hill by the king's grave." 

The negro suddenly uttered a low exclamation. 

Standing as still as so many statues, we heard yet again 
that faint, unearthly wail far off in the night, a wail, as 



214 THE GREAT QUEST 

before, twice repeated. The third cry had scarcely died 
away, when the negro, with a startled gasp, darted into 
the brush. 

O'Hara raised his hand and called to him to come back ; 
but, never turning his head, he disappeared like a fright- 
ened animal. 

Again we were alone in the wilderness. 

To me, now, all that formerly I had understood only in 
vague outline had become clear in every detail. I knew, -of 
course, that, after their own ship was wrecked, our quar- 
tette of adventurers had sent Gleazen back to America, to 
get by hook or crook another vessel to serve their godless 
purposes ; and I knew that they had implicated my de- 
luded uncle in something more than ordinary slave trade. 
Their talk of the man who had stayed behind for a pur- 
pose still further convinced me that Arnold had been 
right ; I remembered the rough stones on the table in the 
cabin the night when I took the four by surprise. But it 
was only common sense that, if our first guess were all 
their secret, they would have smuggled such a find down 
to the coast, and have taken their chance in embarking in 
the first vessel that came to port. There was more than 
that of which to be mindful, and I knew well enough 
what. 

"I say, now, push forward this very minute," cried 
O'Hara. "Better travel a bad road by dark in safety than 
a good road by day that will land every mother's son of us 
in the place where there's no road back." 

"The black devils are hard upon us," Gleazen cried. 
"Lay low, I say. Come afternoon we'll sneak along easy 
like." 

"I stand with Bud O'Hara," said Matterson, slowly. 
"It'll not be so easy to hit us by moonlight as by sunlight." 

"And once we're with Bull in the little fort that he'll 



A GRIM SURPRISE 215 



have made for us," Bud persisted, "we'll be safe surely." 

"It is harder to travel by night," said Arnold. "But 
it is easier by night than by day to evade an enemy." 

The others looked at him curiously, as if surprised by 
his temerity in speaking out ; but, oddly, his seemed to be 
the deciding voice. Working with furious haste, we sorted 
our goods and made them up into six packs, which we 
shouldered according to our strength. But as we worked, 
we would stop and look furtively around ; and at the slight- 
est sound we would start and stare. Our determination to 
go through to the end of our adventure had not flagged 
when at last we gathered beside the thicket where we had 
concealed the boat ; but we were seven silent men who 
left the boat, the creek, and the river behind us, and with 
O'Hara to guide us set off straight into the heart of Africa. 

O'Hara's long sojourn on the continent, which had 
made him a "black man" in the sense that he had come to 
believe, or at least more than half believe, in the silly su- 
perstitions of the natives, had served him better by giving 
him an amazing knowledge of the country. That he was 
following a trail he had traveled many times before would 
have been evident to a less keenly interested observer than 
I. But though he had traveled it ever so many times, it 
was a mystery to me how he could follow it unerringly, by 
moonlight alone, through black tangles of forest growth 
so dense that scarcely a ray stole down on the deeply shad- 
owed path. 

Passing over some high hills, we came, sweaty and 
breathless, down into a rocky gorge, along which we hur- 
ried, now skirting patches of cotton and corn and yams, 
now making a long devour around a sleeping village, until 
we arrived at a wood in a valley where a deep stream 
rumbled. And all this time we had seen no sign whatever 
of any living creature other than ourselves. 



216 THE GREAT QUEST 

It was already full daylight, and throwing off our bur- 
dens, we flung ourselves down and slept. Had our danger 
been even more urgent, I believe that we could not have 
kept awake, so exhausted were we ; and indeed, we were 
in greater peril than we had supposed, for all that day, 
whenever we woke, we heard at no great distance from 
our place of concealment the thump of a pestle pounding 
rice. 

Twelve hours of daylight would easily have brought us 
to our destination. But it was slow work traveling in the 
darkness, and we still had far to go. Pushing on again 
that night, we pressed through a country thickly wooded 
with tall trees, many of which elephants had broken down 
in order to feed on the tender upper branches. 

As we passed them, I was thrilled to see with my own 
eyes the work of wild elephants in their native country, 
and should have liked to stop for a time ; but there was 
no opportunity to loiter, and leaving the woods behind us, 
we came at daylight to a brook, which had cut a deep 
channel into dark slate rock and blue clay. 

Here I conjectured that we should camp for another 
day, but not so : our three leaders were strangely excited. 

"Sure," O'Hara cried, pointing at a low hill at a dis- 
tance in the plain, "sure, gentlemen, and there's our port. 
Where's the man would cast anchor this side of it?" 

O'Hara, Gleazen, and Matterson stood at one side, and 
Arnold, Abe, and I at the other, with my poor uncle in the 
middle. We had not concerted to divide thus. Instinc- 
tively and unconsciously we separated into hostile factions, 
with poor Seth Upham - - neither fish, flesh, nor fowl, as 
they say standing weakly between us. But even so, the 
enthusiasm of the three was contagious. Weary though we 
were, we strongly felt it. We had come so far, all of us, 
and had wondered so much and so often about our myste- 



A GRIM SURPRISE 217 

rious errand, that now, with the end in sight, not one of us, 
I believe, would have stopped. 

Casting caution to the winds, we swung down into a 
wild country and across the broad plain, where, after some 
three hours of rough hard travel, we came to the foot of the 
hill. And in all this time, except the patches of tilled land 
that we had passed, the towns that we had avoided, the 
thumping of pestles and the occasional sounds of domestic 
animals, we had seen and heard no sign of human life. 
It is not strange that for the moment I forgot the threats 
that had caused us such anxiety. Stopping only to catch 
our breath and drink and dash over our faces water from a 
brook, we started up the hill. 

O'Hara, ahead of us all, was like a mad man in his eag- 
erness, and Matterson and Gleazen were not far behind 
him. Even Uncle Seth caught something of their frenzy 
and assumed an empty show of his old pompousness and 
sharp manner. 

Up the hill we went, our three leaders first, then, in 
nervous haste, between the two parties literally as well as 
figuratively, my uncle, then Arnold and Abe and I, who 
were soon outdistanced, in that fierce scramble, by all but 
Uncle Seth. 

"Do you know, Joe," Abe said in a low voice, as he 
gave me a hand up over a bit of a ledge, "I'd sooner be 
home on my little farm that Seth Upham sold from under 
me, with only my crops and fishing to look forward to, 
than here with all the gold in Africa to be got ? I wonder, 
Joe, if I'll ever see my wife and the little boy again." 

" Nonsense !" I cried, "of course you will." 

"Do you think so? I'm not so sure." 

As we stood for a moment on the summit of the ledge, 
I saw that we had chosen a rougher, more circuitous path 
than was necessary. The others had gone up a sort of 



218 THE GREAT QUEST 

swale on our right, where tall, lush grass indicated that the 
ground was marshy. It irritated me that we should have 
scrambled over the rocks for nothing ; my legs were a- 
tremble from our haste. 

"Of course you will," I repeated testily. Then I saw 
something move. " See !" I cried. "There goes an animal 
of some kind." 

While for a moment we waited in hope of seeing again 
whatever it was that had moved, I thought, oddly enough, 
of the girl at the mission ; then my thoughts leaped back 
half round the world to little Topham, and returned by 
swift steps, through all our adventures, to the spot where 
we stood. 

Now the others were bawling at us to come along after 
them, so Abe and I turned, not having seen distinctly 
whatever animal there may have been, and followed them 
up the hill. 

"Here's the brook !" O'Hara cried, "the brook from the 
spring!" 

He was running now, straight up through the tall grass 
beside the tiny trickle, and we were driving along at his 
heels as hard as we could go. 

"Here's the clearing, and never a blade of grass is 
changed since I left it last ! O Bull ! Here we are ! See, 
men, see ! Yonder on the old grave is the house all wattled 
like a nigger hut ! Bull ! Where are you ? But it 's fine 
inside, men, I'll warrant you. He was laying to build it 
good. He said he 'd fix it up like a duke's mansion. Bull ! 
I say, Bull!" 

There indeed was the house, on a low mound, which 
showed the marks of sacrilegious pick and shovel. The 
posts on which it stood were driven straight down into the 
hillock. But in reply to O'Hara's loud hail no answer came 
from that silent, apparently deserted dwelling. 



A GRIM SURPRISE 219 

O'Hara turned and, as if apologizing, said in a lower 
voice, but still loud enough for us to hear, "Sure, now, and 
he must be out somewhere." 

Then he waited for us, and we gathered in a little group 
and looked at the wattled hut as if in apprehension, 
although of course there was no reason on earth why we 
should have been apprehensive. 

"Well, gentlemen," said Arnold, very quietly, "why not 
go in?" 

Not a man stirred. 

O'Hara faced about with moodily clouded eyes. "Well, 
then," he gasped, "he would build it on the king's grave." 

I am sure that my face, for one, told O'Hara that he 
only mystified me. 

"Sure, and he was like others I've seen. More than 
once I warned him, but he did n't believe in nigger gods. 
He did n't believe in nigger gods, and he built the house 
on the king's grave ! On the king's grave, mind you ! He 
was that set and reckless." 

"Gentlemen," said Arnold, again, very quietly, very 
precisely, "why not go in?' 

All this time my uncle, as was his way except in those 
rare moments when he made a pitiful show of regaining 
his old peremptory manner, had been standing by in si- 
lence, looking from one to another of our company. But 
now he hesitantly spoke up. 

"He has not been here for some time," he said. 

Gleazen turned with a scornful grunt. "Much you know 
whether he has or not," he retorted. 

"See!" My uncle pointed at the door. "Vines have 
grown across the top of it." 

Gleazen softly swore, and Matterson said, "For once, 
Neil, he's right." 

Why we had not noticed it before, I cannot say ; prob- 



220 THE GREAT QUEST 

ably we were too much excited. But we all saw it now, 
and Gleazen, staring at the dark shadow of the leaves on 
the door, stepped back a pace. 

"By Heaven," he whispered, "I don't like to go in." 

"Gentlemen," said Arnold, speaking for the third tune, 
ever quietly and precisely, "I am not afraid to go in." 

When he boldly went up to the house ahead of us, we, 
ashamed to hang back, reluctantly followed. 

To this day I can see him in every detail as he laid his 
hand on the latch. His blue coat, which fitted so snugly 
his tall, straight figure, seemed to draw from the warm sun- 
light a brighter, more intense hue. His black hair and 
white, handsome face stood out in bold relief against the 
dark door, and the green leaves drooped round him and 
formed a living frame. 

Setting his shoulders against the door, he straightened 
his body and heaved mightily and broke the rusty latch. 
The hinges creaked loudly, the vine tore away, the door 
opened, and in we walked, to see the most dreadful sight 
my eyes have ever beheld. 

There in a chair by the table sat a stark skeleton dressed 
in good sound clothes. The arms and skull lay on the table 
itself beside a great heap of those rough quartz-like stones, 
I knew now well enough what they were, and the 
bony fingers still held a pen, which rested on a sheet of 
yellow foolscap where a great brown blot marked the end 
of the last word that the man they called Bull had ever 
written. Between the ribs of the skeleton, through the 
good coat and into the back of the chair in such a way that 
it held the body in a sitting posture, stuck a long spear. 

Of the seven of us who stared hi horror at that terrible 
object, Matterson was the first to utter a word. His voice 
was singularly meditative, detached. 

"He never knew see ! it took him unawares." 




Tliere in a chair by the table sat a stark skeleton dressed in good sound clothes. 



A GRIM SURPRISE 221 

O'Hara slowly went to the table, leaned over it, and 
looking incredulously at the paper, as if he could not be- 
lieve his eyes, burst suddenly into a frenzy of grief and 
rage. 

"Lads," he cried, "look there! My name was the last 
thing he wrote. Bull, I warned ye, I warned ye how 
many times I warned ye ! And yet ye would, would, would 
build the house on the king's grave. Bull !" 

He drew the yellow paper out from under the fleshless 
fingers and held it up for all of us to see, and we read in a 
clear flowing hand the following inscription : 

MY DEAR O'HARA : 

Not having heard from you this long time, I take my 
pen in hand to inform you that I am well and that despite 
your silly fears, no harm has come of building our house on 
the sightliest spot hereabouts. Martin Brown, the trader, 
from whom I bought the hinges and fittings will carry this 
letter to you and 

There it ended in a great blot. Whence had the spear 
come? Why had Martin Brown never called for the let- 
ter? Or had he called and gone away again? 

What scenes that page of cheap, yellowed paper, from 
which the faded brown writing stared at us, had witnessed ! 
It was indeed as if a dead man were speaking ; and more 
than that, for the paper on which the man had been writ- 
ing when he died had remained ever since under his very 
hands, undisturbed by all that had happened. How long 
must the man have been dead, I wondered. The stark 
white bones uncannily fascinated me. I saw that the 
feather had been stripped from the bare quill of the pen : 
could moths have done that? A knife could not have 
stripped it so cleanly. 



222 THE GREAT QUEST 

Abe Guptil, who had been prowling about, now spoke, 
and we looked where he pointed and saw on the floor under 
a window the print of a single bare foot as clearly 
marked in mud as if it had been placed there yesterday. 

"Hm! He saw that the job was done and went away 
again," said Gleazen, coolly. 

I stared about the hut, from which apparently not a 
thing had been stolen, and thought that it was the more 
remarkable, because there were pans and knives in plain 
sight that would have been a fortune to an African black. 
The open ink-bottle, in which were a few brown crystals, 
the pen, which was cut from the quill of some African 
bird, and the faded letter, which was scarcely begun, told 
us that the spear, hurled through the open window, had 
pierced the man's body and snuffed out his life, without 
so much as a word of warning. 

O'Hara unsteadily laid the letter down and stepped 
back. His face was still white. "It's words from the 
dead," he gasped. 

"So it is," said Matterson, "but he's panned out a 
noble lot of stones." 

As if Matterson's effeminate voice had again goaded 
him to fury, O'Hara burst out anew. 

"You 'd talk o' stones, would ye ? Stones to me, that has 
lost the best friend surely ever man had? A man that 
would ha ' laid down his very life for me ; and now the nig- 
gers have got him and the ants have stripped his bones ! 
0-o-oh ! - And throwing himself into a rough chair 
that the dead man himself had made, O'Hara sobbed like 
a little boy. 

Matterson and Gleazen nodded to each other, as much 
as to say that it was too bad, but that no one had any call 
to take on to such an extent ; and Gleazen with a shrug 
thrust a finger into that heap of stones, slowly, as if he 



A GRIM SURPRISE 223 

could not quite believe his senses, little he cared for any 
man's life ! - - while those of us who until now had been so 
hypnotized by horror that we had not laid down our packs 
dropped them on the floor. 

"Ants," O'Hara had said : I knew now why the bones 
were so clean and white ; why the feather was stripped 
from the quill. 

From the windows of the hut, which stood in a clearing 
at the very top of the hill, we could see for miles through 
occasional vistas in the tall timber below us. The edge of 
the clearing, on all sides except that by which we had ap- 
proached it, had grown into a tangled net of vines, which 
had crept out into the open space to mingle with saplings 
and green shrubs. Half way down the hill, where we had 
passed it in our haste, I now saw, by the character of the 
vegetation, was the spring from which issued the brook 
whose course we had followed. 

Uncle Seth, who had been striving to appear at ease 
since the first shock of seeing the single occupant of the 
house, came over beside me ; and after a few remarks, 
which touched me because they were so obviously a pa- 
thetic effort to win back my friendship and affection, said 
in a louder voice, "Thank God, we, at least, are safe I" 

The word to O'Hara was like spark to powder. 

Flaring up again, he shrieked, "Safe you ! and you 
thank God for it ! You white-livered milk-sop of a coun- 
try storekeeper, what is your cowardly life worth to your- 
self or to any one else? You safe!" He swore mightily. 
"You! I tell you, Upham, there ' he pointed at the 
skeleton by the table "there was a man ! You safe !" 

Withered by the contempt in the fellow's voice, Uncle 
Seth stepped back from the window, turned round, and, 
as if puzzling what to say next, bent his head. 

As he did so, a single arrow flew with a soft hiss in 



224 THE GREAT QUEST 

through the window, passed exactly where his head had 
just that moment been, and with a hollow thump struck 
trembling into the opposite wall. There was not a sound 
outside, not the motion of a leaf, to show whence the arrow 
came. Only the arrow whispering through the air and 
trembling in the wall. 

Uncle Seth, as yellow as old parchment, looked up with 
distended eyes at the still quivering missile. 

"Safe, you say?" cried Gleazen with a hoarse laugh, 
still letting those little stones fall between his fingers. 
The man at times was a fiend for utter recklessness. "Aye, 
safe on the knees of Mumbo- Jumbo !" 

I heard this, of course, but in a singularly absent way ; 
for at that moment, when every man of us was staring at 
the arrow in the wall, I, strangely enough, was thinking of 
the girl at the mission. 



CHAPTER XXII 

SIEGE 

MUCH as I hated and distrusted Cornelius Gleazen, 
and in the months since I first saw him sitting on the tav- 
ern porch in Topham he had given me reason for both, 
I continually wondered at his reckless nonchalance. 

As coolly as if he were in our village store, with a cod- 
fish swinging above the table, instead of a skeleton lean- 
ing against it, and with a boy's dart trembling in a beam, 
instead of an arrow thrust half through the wall with 
just such a grand gesture as he had used to overawe the 
good people of Topham, he stepped to the door and 
brushed his hair back from his forehead. The diamond 
still flashed on his finger ; his bearing was as impressive as 
ever. 

"Well, lads," he said, and little as I liked him, his 
calmness was somehow reassuring, "there may be a 
hundred of 'em out there, but again there may be only one. 
First of all, we'll need water. I'll fetch it." 

From a peg on the wall he took down a bucket and, re- 
turning to the door, stepped out. 

In the clearing, where the hot sun was shining, I could 
see no sign of life. 

Pausing on the doorstone, Gleazen shrugged his great 
shoulders and stretched himself and moved his fingers so 
that the diamond in his ring flashed a score of colors. He 
was a handsome man in his big, rakehell way ; and in spite 
of all I knew against him, I could but admire his bravado 
as he turned from us. 

Boldly, deliberately, he stepped down into the grass, 



226 THE GREAT QUEST 

while we crowded in the door and watched him. After all, 
it seemed that there was really nothing to be afraid of. 
The rest of us were startled and angry when O'Hara sud- 
denly called out, "Come back, you blithering fool ! Come 
back ! You don't know them, Neil ; I say, you don't know 
them. Come back, I say !" 

With a scornful smile Gleazen turned again and airily 
waved his hand - - I saw the diamond catch the sunlight 
as he did so. Then he gave a groan and dropped the bucket 
and cried out in pain and stumbled back over the thresh- 
old. 

With muskets we sprang to guard door and window. 
But outside the hut there was no living thing to be seen. 
There was not even wind enough to move the leaves of the 
trees, which hung motionless in the sunlight. 

It was as if w r e w r ere in the midst of a nightmare from 
which shortly we should wake up. The whole ghastly in- 
cident seemed so utterly unreal ! But when we looked at 
Gleazen, we knew that it was no mere nightmare. It was 
terrible reality. Blood was dripping from his left hand and 
running down on his shoe. 

Through his hand, half on one side of it, half on the 
other, was thrust an arrow. A second arrow had passed 
just under the skin of his leg. 

From the door I could see the bucket lying in the grass 
where he had dropped it ; but except for a pair of parrots, 
which were flying from tree to tree, there still was no liv- 
ing thing in sight. 

The vine-hung walls of the forest, which reached out 
long tendrils and straggling clumps of undergrowth as if to 
seize upon and consume the space of open ground, stood 
tall and green and silent. The deep grass waved in the 
faintest of breezes. Above a single big rock the hot air 
swayed and trembled. 



SIEGE 227 

Without even wincing, Gleazen drew the arrow from his 
hand and, refusing assistance, bound the wound himself. 

Turning from the door, Arnold went to the table and 
touched an arm of the skeleton, which fell toward the 
body and collapsed inside the sleeve with a low rattle. 

O'Hara raised his hand with an angry gesture. 

"I mean no irreverence," said Arnold. 

For a moment the two stood at gaze, then, letting his 
hand fall, O'Hara stepped over beside Arnold, and they 
lifted the bones, which for the most part fell together in 
the dead man's clothes, and laid them by the north wall. 

"And what," asked Matterson, curiously, "are you two 
doing now?" 

Without answering, Arnold coolly swept the stones on 
the table together between his hands into a more com- 
pact pile. 

"Hands off, my boy," said Gleazen, quietly. 

"Well?" Gleazen's words had brought a flush to Ar- 
nold's cheeks. He himself was nearly as old as Gleazen 
and was quick to resent the patronizing tone, and his very 
quietness was more threatening than the loudest bluster. 

"Hands off," Gleazen repeated ; and raising his musket, 
he cocked it and tapped the muzzle on the opposite side 
of the table. "This says 'hands off,' too." He glanced 
around so that we could see that he meant us all. "Mat- 
terson, ain't there a sack somewhere hereabouts?" But 
for the blood on his shoe and the stained cloth round his 
hand, he gave no sign of having been wounded. 

From under the table Matterson picked up a bag such 
as might have been used for salt, but which was made of 
strong canvas and was grimy from much handling. 

"He was always a careful man," Gleazen remarked with 
a glance at the skeleton heaped up in the shadow of the 
wall. "I thought he would have provided a bag." 



228 THE GKEAT QUEST 

Gleazen and Matterson then, with pains not to miss a 
single one, picked up the stones by handfuls and let them 
rattle into the bag like shot. 

"And now," said Gleazen, when the last one was hi and 
the neck of the bag was tied, "once more : hands off !" 

Laying the bag beside the skeleton, he took his stand in 
front of it, with Matterson and O'Hara on his right and 
left. 

So far as the three of them were concerned, we might 
have been killed a dozen times over, had anyone seen fit 
to attack us. But Abe and I, all the time keeping one eye 
on the strange scene inside the cabin, had kept watch also 
for trouble from without, and all the time not a thing had 
stirred in the clearing. 

"What," Matterson again asked, still watching Arnold 
curiously, "what are you going to do now?' 

Tipping the table up on one side and wrenching off one 
of the boards that formed the top of it, Arnold placed it 
across a window, so that there was a slit at the bottom 
through which we could watch or shoot. 

"Now, there's an idea!" Gleazen exclaimed. But he 
never stirred from in front of the skeleton and the bag. 

"There are nails in the table," said Arnold. 

Matterson smiled, and taking the board in one hand, 
tapped a nail against the table to start it, and with the 
thumb and forefinger of the other hand drew it out as eas- 
ily as if it had been stuck in putty. "For a hammer," he 
said lightly, "use the butt of a musket." 

" Look ! " my uncle exclaimed : he was pointing at a good 
claw-hammer, which hung over the door. 

The hut fell far short of the duke's mansion that its 
luckless builder had promised O'Hara, but it had a window 
in each of three walls, and the door in the fourth, so that, 
by cutting a hole through the door, we were able, after we 



SIEGE 229 

had barricaded the windows, to guard against surprise 
from any quarter without exposing ourselves to a chance 
shot ; and as we had brought four muskets, we were able 
to give each sentry one well loaded. 

The silence deepened. The air was fairly alive with 
suspicion. When Uncle Seth nervously moistened his lips, 
we all heard him ; and when he flushed and shifted his 
feet, the creaking of a board seemed harsh and loud. 

"Well," said Gleazen, slowly, "I'll stand in one watch 
and Matterson here will stand in the other. For the' rest, 
suit yourselves." 

Another long, uncomfortable silence fell upon us. 

"Then," said Arnold, at last, "since no one else sug- 
gests an arrangement, I would suggest that Mr. Matter- 
son, O'Hara, Mr. Upham, and I stand the first watch; 
that Mr. Gleazen, Joe Woods, and Abe Guptil stand 
second watch ; and in order to put four men in each watch 
in turn, since we must have four to guard against surprise 
from any direction, I suggest that each man, turn and 
turn about, stands a double watch of eight hours. I my- 
self will take the double watch first." 

"That is good as far as it goes," Matterson interposed 
in his light voice. "But a single watch of two hours, with 
the double watch of four, is long enough. A man grows 
sleepy sooner with his eye at a knothole than if he is 
walking the deck." 

Arnold nodded. "We agree to that," he replied. 

"Lads," said Gleazen, quite unexpectedly, "let's have 
en end of hard looks and hard words. Come, Joe, come, 
Arnold, don't take sides against us and good Seth 
Upham. We 're all in this fix together, and, by heaven ! 
unless we stand together and come out together, not one 
of us '11 come out alive." 

The man now seemed so frank, and in the face of our 



230 THE GREAT QUEST 

common danger so genial, that, if I had not still felt the 
sting of the flattery by which he had deceived me so out- 
rageously in the old days in Topham, I should have been 
convinced that he was sincere in every word he uttered. 
As it was, sincere or false, I knew that for the moment he 
was honest. However his attitude toward us might change 
when our troubles were past, for the time being we did 
share a common danger, and it was imperative that we 
stand together. But to speak of my poor uncle as if he 
were hand in glove with the three of them and on equal 
terms exasperated me. 

Seth Upham's face was drawn and anxious. It was plain 
that his spirit was broken, and I believed, when I looked 
at him, that never again would he make a show of stand- 
ing up to the man who had virtually robbed him of all he 
possessed. 

"Sir," said Arnold Lamont, thoughtfully and with that 
quaint, almost indefinable touch of foreign accent, "that 
is true. We might say that we don't know what you mean 
by offering us a truce. We might pretend that we have al- 
ways been, and always shall be, on the friendliest of terms 
with you. But we know, as well as you, that it is not so. 
Since we share a common danger and since our safety de- 
pends on our mutual loyalty, we, sir, agree to your offer. 
A truce it shall be while our danger lasts, and here 's my 
hand that it will be an honest truce." 

It was easy to see that Gleazen and Matterson were not 
altogether pleased by his words. They would have liked, 
I think, to have us apprehend the situation less clearly. 
But there was nothing to do but make the best of matters ; 
so Gleazen shook Arnold's hand, and we took an inventory 
of our provisions, which were quite too few to last through 
a siege of any length. 

"To-morrow night, surely we can run for it," said 



SIEGE 231 

O'Hara. "To-night they'll watch us like hawks, but to- 
morrow night 

Plainly it was that for which we must wait. 

We divided our food into equal portions, each to serve 
for one meal, the meals, we saw, were to be very few, 
ate one portion on the spot and settled ourselves to watch 
and sleep. But before I fell asleep I heard something that 
still further enlightened me. 

"Now, why," asked Gleazen, sourly, as he faced the 
other two in the darkness, "couldn't one of you ha' 
stayed with Bull, even if the other was fool enough to go 
a-wandering?" 

Matterson quietly smiled. "Bud, here, swore he 'd never 
leave him." 

"We-e-ell," O'Hara drawled, irritably, "you was both 
of you too long gone and Bull was set in his ways. It was 
'Step this side/ and 'Step that!' And 'Those stones are 
yourn and those are mine and those are for the company.' 
Says I at last, 'Them that you've laid out for me, I'll 
take to the coast. Keep the rest of them if you wish/ 
Says he, 'You'll leave me here to rot.' 'Not so,' says I. 
'By hook or by crook Neil will get the vessel surely, and 
Molly will arrange the market surely, for they're good 
men and not to be turned lightly off. Do you clean the 
pocket, and build the house. Surely the pocket that has 
sent Neil home like a gentleman, and has sent Molly west 
like a man of business, will provide us at least the where- 
withal to buy one cargo. And with a cargo under our own 
hatches,' says I, 'four fortunes will soon be made.' 'Do 
you go,' says he, 'and I'll build a house like a duke's man- 
sion to live in, and dig the pocket out and make friends 
with the niggers, which eventually we will catch, and four 
fortunes we will make.' So I come away, and you two 
surely would 'a' done the same if you'd been in my 



232 THE GREAT QUEST 

breeches instead of me ; and then he went and built his 
house on the king's grave !" 

As I lay on the floor, not three feet from the skeleton 
and from the round bag of quartz-like stones, through 
half-closed eyes I saw against the door, beyond which the 
sun was shining with intense hea.t, the great black shadow 
that I knew was Matterson, with a musket across his 
knees; then, so exhausted was I, that I forgot the grim 
object within arm's length of where I lay, forgot our feud 
with Matterson and Gleazen and O'Hara, forgot every 
ominous event that had happened since the Adventure 
had set sail four days before and moved down the river 
toward the open sea, and, falling asleep, dreamed of some- 
one whom, strangely, I could not forget. 

The sun had set and the moon was up when my turn 
came to go on guard. Taking Matterson's musket and his 
place by the open door where I could see all that went on 
without, but where no one outside could see me in the 
dark of the hut, I settled myself with my back against the 
jamb. In Matterson's motions as he handed me the mus- 
ket and went over by the skeleton and lay down, there was 
the same lithe strength that he had revealed when he 
lifted himself to the taffrail and boarded the Adventure in 
Havana harbor. I marveled that he could endure so much 
with so little drain on his physical powers. 

" Watch sharply, Joe, there's a brave lad," he said in 
his light voice. 

As he crossed the hut and laid his great body on the 
floor, so slowly yet so lightly, I thought to myself that I 
had never seen a lazier man. What a power he might have 
been at sea or ashore, had he had but a tithe of Gleazen's 
bold effrontery ! Although he had shown none of Gleazen's 
passionate recklessness, he had given no sign of fear under 
any circumstances that we had yet encountered. I won- 



SIEGE 233 

dered if it were not likely that the man's very quietness, 
the complete absence of such petulance as Gleazen some- 
times showed, sprang from a deep, well-proved confi- 
dence in his own might. 

I was glad that it had fallen to me to guard the door 
rather than a window. Whereas from the windows one 
could see only a short space of rough open park and then 
the intermatted tangle of vines, from the door the vista 
ran far down the hill to the open glade where, hidden in 
deep grass, the spring lay. But though I sat with the mus- 
ket beside me for hours, and though the moon rose higher 
and higher, revealing every tree and bush, in all my watch 
I did not see one thing astir outside the hut. 

I must repeat that we seemed to be living in a dream. 
We had seen no enemy, heard no enemy. For all the signs 
and sights that those walls of tangled creepers revealed to 
us, there might have been no human being within a hun- 
dred miles. Yet from behind those walls had come three 
arrows, and for the time being those three arrows locked 
us in the hut as fast as if they had been bolts and chains 
and padlocks. 

As I watched, I heard someone get up and walk around 
the hut ; and when I glanced over my shoulder, I saw that 
it was my uncle. To my surprise he was talking in a low 
voice. Now what, I wondered, possessed him to stay 
awake when he might be sleeping. 

"I must be getting home," I heard him say as he came 
nearer; and his voice startled me because, although it 
spoke softly, it was the old sharp, domineering voice that 
I had known so long and so well in Topham ; "I must be 
getting home. I don't know when I've stayed so late at 
the store." 



CHAPTER XXIII 

SORTIE 

NIGHT and morning we got little rest. We ate another 
meal from our slender store ; but it was a fearful thing to 
see how few meals remained ; and though in part we sat- 
isfied our hunger, our thirst seemed more unendurable 
than ever. 

"Eat light and belt tight," O'Hara muttered. "Last 
night they w r as watching like cats at a rat-hole. To-night 
surely they '11 not be so eager. It '11 be to-night that we can 
make our dash to the river." 

Once more the sun was shining on the green, open space 
around the hut. A huge butterfly, blazing with gaudy 
tropical colors, fluttered out from some nook among the 
creepers where it had been hidden, and on slow wings 
sailed almost up to us, loitered a moment beside a blue 
flower, and again took flight through the still air to the 
opposite forest wall. 

"If Neil Gleazen had as much brains under his hah- as 
he has hair to cover his head," Matterson softly remarked, 
"we'd have brought enough food so that we'd not have to 
go hungry." 

"Food !" Gleazen roared. "Food, is it? You eat like a 
hog, you glutton. And who was to know that Bull would 
not have a house full of food to feast us on? Who was to 
know that Bull would be dead?' 

A.t that a silence fell upon us. 

As usual, though we had agreed to a truce between our 
two parties, Gleazen, Matterson, and O'Hara sat on one 
side of the room, the side where the skeleton and the bag 



SORTIE 235 

of pebbles lay, and Arnold, Abe and I sat on the other, 
with poor Uncle Seth wandering about at will between us. 

There was that in my uncle's manner which I could not 
understand ; and as I watched him, Abe Guptil touched 
my elbow. 

"Something queer ails Seth Upham," he whispered. 

"I know it," I replied. 

"I don't like to see him act that way." 

"Nor I." 

Abe regarded me thoughtfully. "Now ain't it queer how 
things turn out?" he whispered. "I mind the day you 
come to my house and told me I'd got to flit. It was a 
bitter day for me, Joe, and yet do you know, I 'd kind o ' 
like to be back there, even if it was all to go through again. 
I swear, though, I'd never sail again with Mr. Gleazen." 

There was something so ingenuous in Abe's way of say- 
ing that he wished he had never come, that I smiled ; but 
it touched me to remember all that Abe and I had faced 
together ; and Abe himself, with keen Yankee shrewdness, 
added in an undertone, "It's all very well for O'Hara to 
talk of making our break to-night. I 'm thinking, Joe, it is 
upon us a storm will break before we get free and clear of 
this camp." 

As the sun rose higher and higher, the sunlight steadily 
grew warmer. The air shimmered with heat, and the house 
itself became as hot, it seemed, as an oven over a charcoal 
fire. Sweat streamed from our faces and, having had no 
water now for nearly twenty-four hours, we suffered ago- 
nies of thirst. 

Never were men in a more utterly tantalizing predica- 
ment. Whether or not it was cooler outside the hut than 
within, it surely could have been no hotter ; and from the 
door straight down the hill to the spring there led a broad, 
open path. The spring was only a short distance away, and 



236 THE GREAT QUEST 

there was, so far as we could see, not a living creature be- 
tween us and cold water in abundance. Hour after hour 
the green, deep grass around it mocked us. Yet in the 
wattled hut, under the thatched roof, we were prisoners. 

Three arrows, shot by we knew not whom, every one of 
them now in our own hands, were the only warnings that 
we had received ; but not a man of us dared disobey the 
message that those three arrows had brought. 

The day wore on, through the long and dreary watches 
of the morning, through the tortures of high noon, and 
through the less harsh afternoon hours. We ate another of 
our few remaining meals and watched the sun set and the 
darkness come swiftly. The shadows, growing longer 
and longer, reached out across the clearing to the trees on 
the opposite side; and suddenly, darkly, swept up the 
eastern wall of the forest. As the light vanished, night 
enfolded us. The stars that flashed into the sky only in- 
tensified the utter blackness of the woods. 

O'Hara uneasily stirred and stretched himself in the 
darkness like a dog. 

"Now, lads," he whispered, "now's the time to gather 
things together. At two in the morning we '11 run for it. 
Then's the hour they'll be sleeping like so many black 

pigs." 

Gleazen moved and groaned, it was almost the first 
time that he had yielded in the least to the pain of his 
wound. 

"Can you travel by yourself, Neil?" Matterson asked. 
"Or shall I carry you on my back?' : 

When it came to me that the question was no joke, that 
Matterson actually meant it, I could not keep from staring 
at him in amazement. He was a tremendous man, but 
there was something honestly heroic in his offering to carry 
Cornelius Gleazen's weight back over all those miles. 



SORTIE 237 

Gleazen smiled and shook his head. " Thanks, Mat," he 
replied, "but I'll make out to scramble along." 

The word "scramble," it seemed, caught Uncle Seth's 
attention, and with a curt nod, he said, "Yes, scramble 
them ; use them any way but boiled. We can't sell cracked 
eggs in the store, but they're perfectly good to use at 
home." 

We all looked in amazement, and Gleazen, in spite of his 
pain, hoarsely laughed. 

"Why, Seth," he cried, "are you gone crazy?" 

My uncle stared blankly at him and continued to pace 
the room. 

In the silence that ensued, Gleazen's words seemed to 
echo and reecho ; though they were spoken quietly, even 
in jest, their significance was truly terrible. 

"Gentlemen," said Arnold Lament in a very low voice, 
"Seth Upham, I fear, is not well. We must not let him 
stand guard. We cannot trust him ! " 

"Name of heaven!" whispered Matterson, "the man's 
right. Upham is turning queer." 

As I watched my uncle, my mother's only brother, the 
last of all my kin, a choking rose in my throat. He did 
not see me at all. He saw none of us. In mind and spirit 
he was thousands of miles away from us. I started toward 
him, but when his eyes met mine dully and with no indi- 
cation that he recognized me, I swallowed hard and turned 
back. 

Never was a night so long and ghastly ! With all pre- 
pared for our dash to the river, with Uncle Seth wandering 
back and forth, and with the rest of us divided into three 
watches of two each, that overlapped by an hour, so that 
four men were always on guard, we watched and waited 
until midnight passed and the morning hours came. 

When the moon was at the zenith, O'Hara woke Mat- 



238 THE GREAT QUEST 

terson, and we gathered by the packs, which were made 
up and ready. 

"Poor Bull !" said O'Hara, brushing his hand across his 
eyes. "Sure, and I hate to leave him thus. If ever man 
deserved a decent burial, it's him." 

"If men got what they deserved," Gleazen briefly re- 
torted, "Bull would never have drove the ship on the 
island, and we'd never have had to divide up this here 
find which Bull dug up for us, and Bull would never have 
had to stand by the hill to get himself killed, in the first 
place." 

Each man had tied up his own belongings to suit him- 
self, and had put in his pocket his share of what little food 
was left. The different packs stood in the middle of the 
hut, but it was noticeable that, although each man was 
nearest his own, Matterson was eyeing Gleazen's with a 
show of keener interest. 

"Let me carry your bundle, Neil, you with a hole in 
your leg," he said. 

"No," Gleazen replied. 

"I'll never notice the weight of it." 

" Keep your hand off, Molly. I '11 carry my own bundle." 

"As you please." 

Matterson turned away and stepped to one side. 

All this I noticed, at first, mainly, if the truth be known, 
because I saw how closely Arnold Lament was noticing it, 
but later because the manner of the two men convinced me 
that Gleazen's pack held the bag that the others were so 
carefully guarding. 

Now that our food was almost gone, there remained so 
very little baggage of any kind for us to carry, that there 
was no good reason that I could see for not putting our 
odds and ends of clothing and ammunition into, say, two 
convenient bundles, at which we could take turns during 



SOKTIE 239 

our forced march to the river, or, indeed, for not abandon- 
ing the mere baggage altogether. But Gleazen, Matter- 
son, and O'Hara had planned otherwise. Having allotted 
to each of us his share of the food that remained, and an 
equal seventh of our various common possessions, they 
kept three of the muskets themselves, and gave the fourth 
to poor Seth Upham, which seemed to me so mad an act 
that I was on the point of questioning its wisdom, when 
Arnold caught my eye and signaled me to be still. 

Gathering in the door of the hut, we looked out into the 
silent, moonlit glade that led down the hill and through 
the valley toward the distant river. 

"Are we all ready, lads?" Matterson asked in his light 
voice. 

"Push on, Molly, push on," Gleazen replied. 

Shouldering his pack, Matterson stepped out into the 
moonlight. "Now, then," he whispered, for although 
we were confident that no enemy within earshot was then 
awake (it had not been hard for O'Hara to persuade us to 
his own way of thinking), a spell of silence and secrecy was 
upon us, "it's straight for the river, lads, and the devil 
take the hindermost. If you're too lame to travel, Neil, so 
help me, I'll carry you." 

"Push on!" Gleazen returned hoarsely. "Push on to 
the spring. After that we'll talk if you wish." 

"We're going home," I thought. Home, indeed! It 
seemed that at last we had turned the corner ; that at last 
we had passed the height of land and were on the point of 
racing down the long slope ; that at last our troubles were 
over and done with. A score of figures to express it leaped 
into my mind. And first of all, best of all, at last we were 
to get water ! 

Arnold said sharply, "Come, Abe; come, Joe; step 
along." 



40 THE GREAT QUEST 



Bending low, Matterson led the way, I followed close 
at his heels, and the others came in single file behind 
me. Seven dark figures, silently slipping from shadow to 
shadow, we left behind us the hut, we believed forever ! 
and headed straight down the hill to the spring ; for more 
than anything else we longed to plunge our faces into cold 
water and drink until we had quenched our burning thirst. 

Down the hill to the spring we went, slipping along hi 
single file. All night and all day, without a word, we had 
endured agony ; for it was by showing no sign of life what- 
ever to those who were guarding the hut from the forest 
that we hoped so to lull their watchfulness that we could 
escape them just after midnight. And now we were eager 
almost beyond words for that water which we had so viv- 
idly imagined. As we darted into the tall grass, it seemed 
so completely assured that I swung my pack from my 
shoulder and broke into a quick trot after Matterson, 
whose long, swift strides, as he straightened up, had car- 
ried him on ahead of me. 

If a thousand people read this tale, not one of them, 
probably, will know the full meaning of the word thirst ; 
not one will understand what water had come by then to 
mean to me. 

I ran I tried to run faster faster ! But as I drag- 
ged my pack along, bumping at my knees, I was amazed 
to see Matterson stop. He threw his musket to his shoul- 
der. The hollow boom of it went rolling off through the 
woodland and echoed slowly away into silence among the 
mighty trees. Then he threw his hands up, and with a cry 
fell into the grass, and lay so still that I could not tell 
where he had fallen. 

By the flash of his musket I and those behind me had 
for an instant seen by the spring a grotesque figure dressed 
in skins and rags, and painted with white rings and bars. 



SORTIE 241 

When the flash died away, we could see nothing, not even 
the waving grasses and the black trees against the sky, be- 
cause momentarily the sudden glare had blinded us. 

As if impelled by another will than mine, I drew back 
step by step until I was standing shoulder to shoulder 
with the others. Whatever quarrels we had had among 
ourselves were for the time forgotten. 

"Now, by heaven," Gleazen gasped, "it's back to the 
hut for all of us!" 

"But Neil --now, Neil, sure now we can't run away 
and leave old Molly," O'Hara cried. 

"Leave him?" Gleazen roared. "We've got to leave 
him ! Where is he ? Tell me if you can ! Go find him if 
you like! Hark! See!" 

With a thin, windy whistle a spear came flying out of 
the night and passed just over Gleazen's shoulder and his 
pack. Another with a soft chug struck into the ground at 
my feet ; then, my eyes having once more become accus- 
tomed to the moonlight, I saw sneaking into the clearing a 
score of dark, slinking figures. 

"They're coming!" I cried. "They're cutting us off! 
Quick ! Quick !" In panic I started back to the hut, with 
the others at my heels. 

WTien they saw the figures that I had seen, Gleazen and 
O'Hara both fired then* muskets, whereupon the figures 
disappeared and we, deafened by the tremendous reports 
and blinded again by the bright flashes, ran back as hard 
as we could go to the hut that so short a time since we had 
eagerly abandoned; and with Gleazen limping in the 
rear, fairly threw ourselves across the threshold. 

Whether our gunfire had done any real damage, we 
gravely doubted ; and now we were both a man and a 
weapon short. But bitterest of all, and by far the most 
discouraging, was our intense thirst. 



242 THE GREAT QUEST 

"Ah, the black devils," O'Hara muttered between grind- 
ing teeth. "Sure, and they planned all that - - planned to 
let us get the water almost between our lips and then drive 
us back here. The black cowards, they dare not meet us 
man to man, though they are forty to our one." 

It was significant that no one spoke of Matterson. The 
silence as regarded his name marked a certain fatalism, 
which now possessed us - - something akin to despair, yet 
not so ignoble as despair ; something akin to resolution, 
yet not so praiseworthy as resolution. There seemed, in- 
deed, nothing to say about him. Bull was dead, I thought, 
and Matterson was dead ; and even if the blacks dared not 
rush upon us and take the hut by storm, they would soon 
kill us by thirst. We had done our best ; if worst came to 
worst, we would die with our boots on. 

Meanwhile queer low cries out in the forest were rising 
little by little to shrill yells and hoots and cat-calls. If we 
could judge by the sounds, there were hundreds of blacks, 
if not thousands. 

"0 Bull! You poor, deluded fool!" O'Hara cried. 
"Now why - - why - - why did he go and build the house 
on a king's grave?'' 

Why indeed? 

It was a fearful thing to hear those cries and yells : yet, 
although we watched from door and windows a long while, 
we did not actually see any further sign of danger, until 
Arnold Lament, who was guarding the door, said in a sub- 
dued voice, "Look --down the hill -- half-way down. 
Something has moved twice." 

As we gathered behind him, he turned and with a quick 
gesture said, "Do not leave the windows. Who knows 
what trick they may try upon us?" 

My uncle, who seemed for the moment to comprehend 
all that was going forward, and Abe Guptil and Gleazen, 



SORTIE 243 

went back to the windows, although it was evident enough 
that their minds were not so much on their own duty as on 
whatever it was that had caught Arnold's attention. 

" See! "said Arnold. 

There was nothing down there now that seemed not to 
belong by nature to the place, and I surmised that Arnold 
had seen only some small animal. But that a black ob- 
ject, appearing and disappearing, had revealed more to the 
others than to me, I immediately apprehended. 

"It was fifty feet farther down the hill when I first dis- 
tinguished it," said Arnold. 

O'Hara went over to my uncle and I heard him say, 
"Let me take your gun, since it's loaded, Mr. Upham, 
and thank you kindly." 

Returning, he sat down in the door beside Arnold, who 
had begun meanwhile to load the empty musket that 
O'Hara had carelessly laid aside. When the thing, what- 
ever it was, moved again, O'Hara raised the gun to his 
shoulder. 

"Don't shoot !" Arnold whispered. 

"And why not?" 

The thing moved once more. 

"Will ye look, now ! It 's come ten feet in this direction," 
O'Hara whispered. 

Now Arnold raised his own musket. 

Again we saw the thing, but so briefly that neither Ar- 
nold nor O'Hara had time to fire. 

Suddenly O'Hara laid his hand on Arnold's shoulder and 
repeated Arnold's own words : - 

"Don't shoot." 

"This time," Arnold whispered, "I shall shoot." 

"Wait a bit, wait a bit!" O'Hara gently pressed down 
the muzzle of the gun. 

Meanwhile, you must understand, the yelling and hoot- 



244 THE GREAT QUEST 

ing had first grown loud and near, then had drawn slowly 
farther away. It was not easy to let that creature, be it 
animal or human, come crawling up the hill in the full 
light of the moon. As the cries died in the distance, the 
thing moved faster and with less concealment, and I 
fiercely whispered, " Shoot, Arnold, shoot!" 

"Wait," he replied and lifted a restraining hand. 

At the moment I could not understand why he did not 
do as I said ; but as the thing came out into open ground, 
the same thought that had caused the two to hold their 
fire occurred likewise to me ; and now we saw that we were 
right. 

The thing crawling up the hill was a man, and when the 
man came into the open clearing directly in front of our 
camp, we saw that it was Matterson. 

Without a word, followed closely by O'Hara, who laid 
his gun on the threshold, I leaped out past Arnold and ran 
down to Matterson and helped him to his feet and led him 
groaning up to the hut. 




VI 
FOR OUR VERY LIVES 



CHAPTER XXIV 
SPEARS IN THE DARK 

"0-o-OH !" he moaned. "They got me. It's a wonder 
they did n't kill me. But here I am along with old Neil 
Gleazen." 

" Where's your bundle?" Gleazen demanded. 

"Down in the grass by the spring." 

"Let me tell you, Matterson, it 's good I carried my 



own." 



Matterson repressed another groan and made no answer. 

Blood was running from a great gash above his ear and 
across his cheek, which we hastened to bind to the best of 
our ability, and he lay down on the floor with his head on 
his hand. 

"I'm on the sick list," he said at last, "but I've had 
water, and if those black sons of hell have not poisoned the 
spring, I'll call it quits." 

Matterson's face was a ghastly sight, and already blood 
had reddened the strip of sacking round his head ; but I 
believe there was not a man of us who would not have 
taken his wound to have got his chance at water. 

"If only we could catch a king," Gleazen remarked 
thoughtfully. "That's the way to end a war in Africa. 
Catch us a king and make peace on him." 

"That's one way surely to end a war," said O'Hara, 
darkly, "but not this war." 

"And why not this war?" 

"Because," said O'Hara, "Bull built the house on a 
king's grave. It's the spirits that are offended." 

Gleazen laughed unkindly. 



248 THE GREAT QUEST 

"Aye, laugh," cried O'Hara, "that's all you know about 
spirits. Now I '11 tell ye, believe me or not as it pleases ye, 
that the spirit of a nigger is a bad thing to cross. And care 
as little as ye please for jujus and fetishes and nigger gods, 
the times are coming when they'd serve you well if you'd 
not turned them off by laughing at them." 

"Spirits- said my uncle in an undertone. "Hm! 
Hollands, Scotch, and Rye. We must lay in more Hol- 
lands, Sim ; the stock 's getting low. And while you are 
about it, we'd best take an inventory of our cordials." 

Gleazen fluently swore, and watched Seth Upham with 
a keen, appraising look. There was no doubt that in his 
own wandering mind my uncle was back again in his store 
in Topham. 

"I'm thirsty," he said suddenly. "I must get a drink 
of water. Now where 's the bucket? Sim, where 's the 
bucket?" 

As he fumbled along the wall, we stared at one another 
with eyes in which there was fear as well as horror. I 
swallowed hard. Poor, poor Uncle Seth, I thought. What 
was to become of him ? And indeed, for the matter of that, 
of us all ? 

By this time I had come to see clearly that poor Seth 
Upham was in no condition to stand up for his own rights, 
and that, whether or not he could stand up for his rights, 
he had no chance of getting them from that precious trio, 
his associates, without a stronger advocate than mere 
justice. 

They had promised unconditionally that half the prof- 
its of their mad voyage should be his, and by that promise 
alone they had so cruelly persuaded him to sell home and 
business and embark in their enterprise. Now, deceived, 
bullied, flouted, he bade fair to lose not only those gains 
which were rightfully his, but also his vessel, his stores, 



SPEARS IN THE DARK 249 

and every cent that he had ventured. If there was to 
be a copper penny saved for him, Arnold, Abe, and I must 
save it. 

Through the rough, less pleasant memories of his abrupt, 
sharp ways - - and so often, even when he was in the 
abruptest and sharpest of moods he had betrayed uncon- 
sciously, even unwillingly, his thought of my future, for 
which he was building, as well as for his own - - there came 
memories of old days, when he and my mother and I had 
lived so quietly and happily together in Topham. 

I started up, all at once awakened from my reveries, 
with Abe's dazed voice ringing in my ears. ''Look! 
Look!" he cried. "Look there!" 

For the moment, hi our horror at my uncle's condition, 
we had almost forgotten our danger from without. 

''Look! "Abe cried again. 'In heaven's name look 
there!" 

We crowded shoulder to shoulder by the window where 
Abe had stationed himself and saw in the moonlit clearing 
a strange creature, which came dancing and rolling along 
from the edge of the forest. It was dressed in skins and 
rags. It was painted with big white rings and bars. Now 
it began to utter strange whines and squeals and whim- 
pers, in an unearthly tone that it might have produced by 
blowing on a split quill. 

From the corner of my eye I saw that Matterson was 
biting his lip. At my side I felt O'Hara violently trembling. 

Out in the moonlight, where the swaying creepers cast 
dim, spectral shadows, the gibbering, murmuring crea- 
ture was coming nearer. Its boldness w r as appalling. I had 
been brought up in a Christian country and given a Chris- 
tian education, but even to me that clumsy, dancing 
wizard, with his unearthly squeals and cries, brought a 
superstitious fear so keen that I could scarcely control my 



250 THE GREAT QUEST 

wits. Small wonder that such tricks impose on credulous 
savages ! 

"Watch, now!" Gleazen said quietly. He leveled a 
musket across the window-sill. "Spirits is it? I'll show 
them." 

"Don't shoot," O'Hara cried. "Don't shoot, Neil, don't 
shoot!" 

He reached past me toward Gleazen ; but before he 
could lay hands on the gun, Gleazen fired. A spurt of 
flame shot from the muzzle, and as the report went thun- 
dering off into the forest the medicine man - - wizard 
devil - - call him what you will - - seemed curiously to wilt 
like a drought-killed plant, but more suddenly than ever 
plant wilted, and fell in a crumpled heap in the moonlight. 

"You fool!" O'Hara cried, "you cursed fool! First it 
was Bull that built the house on a king's grave and now 
it is you that 's killed a devil ! " 

"He's dead enough," Gleazen calmly replied. 

"Look!" 

Here and there, along the edge of the forest, men darted 
into the moonlight. They carried spears, which flashed 
now and then when the moon fell just so on the points. 
First they gathered by the body of the wizard and carried 
it back into the woods. We saw them, a little knot of men 
with the heavy weight of the fallen mummer in their 
midst, moving slowly to the wall of vines and through it 
into the mysterious depths beyond. Then, coming slowly 
out again, they moved back and forth before the hut as if 
to appraise our chances of defending it. Then they once 
more disappeared. 

All this time they had walked as if in a world of death. 
Although we had seen their every gesture, we had not 
heard a sound loud enough to rival the almost impercep- 
tible drone of insects in the grass. But now we heard again 



SPEARS IN THE DARK 251 

that grimly familiar, haunting, wild cry. Three times we 
heard it, terribly mournful and prolonged ; then we heard 
a voice wailing, " White man, I come 'peak : white man all 
go Dead Land." 

The voice died away, a few formless shrieks and yells 
followed it, and a silence, long and deep, settled upon the 
clearing. 

Once more Arnold, Abe, and I stood on one side of the 
hut, and Gleazen, Matterson, and O'Hara on the other, 
with poor Seth Upham wandering aimlessly between us. 

There was war within and without. There was almost 
no food. There was no water at all. I thought, then, that 
I should never see the town of Topham again ; and 
which oddly enough seemed even harder to endure I 
thought that I never again should see the mission on 
the river. 

"I swear," O'Hara whispered, so clearly did I hear 
the words, as I stood with one eye for the inside of the 
hut and one for the outside, that I jumped like a nervous 
girl, "I swear we've started a war that will reach from 
here to Barbary before it's done. Hearken to that!" 

We heard afar off the throbbing of native drums, the 
roar of distant angry voices, a strange chant sung in some 
remote African encampment. 




CHAPTER XXV 

CARDS AND CHESS 

HUNGER and thirst were stripping away the last vestige 
of our pretended good-will, and our two parties glared at 
each other in a sullen rage, which seemed visibly to grow 
more intense, until it was the most natural thing hi the 
world that Arnold should touch with the toe of his shoe a 
board that ran from one end of the hut to the other and 
divided the floor approximately into halves. 

"That side," he said, "is yours. This side is ours. You 
shall not cross that line. You shall guard the hut from 
that side ; we, from this." 

Gleazen looked at Matterson, then at O'Hara, then 
both he and Matterson nodded grim assent. 

But although a board across the hut divided us into two 
hostile camps, we shared a peril so imminent and so over- 
whelming that we dared not for an instant relax our watch- 
fulness toward our enemies in the forest. 

With one eye on our foes without and one on our foes 
within, we settled ourselves for another night, which I re- 
member by the agonies of thirst that we endured ; and 
with a certain grim confidence, shared by both parties in 
the hut, that neither would betray the other, since to do 
so would be to throw away its own one chance for life, we 
watched and waited for the dawn. 

And meanwhile we heard hi the forest such a clamor 
and din as few white men have ever been so unlucky as to 
hear. First, we heard unseen people running about and 
furiously screaming ; then, here and there through the 
trees and vines we caught glimpses of flaming torches, 



CARDS AND CHESS 253 

which they swung in great circles and again and again 
touched to the ground. I was convinced that it preluded 
an attack, and I screwed up my courage and fingered my 
pistols and tried not to show my fear ; but in a brief lull I 
learned from something that O'Hara was saying to his 
companions that they were not preparing for an attack ; 
they were mourning for the wizard whom Gleazen had 
killed, and with the flaming torches they were driving 
away evil spirits. Now far down the valley we caught 
glimpses of moving lights ; and once in a while, through 
pauses in the nearer din, we heard a distant droning, by 
which we knew that the blacks of the countryside were 
converging upon us from the remotest districts, along their 
narrow trails, in thin streams like ants. Minute by min- 
ute the cries became more general, and rose to such a 
hideous intermingling of wails and shrieks as I should not 
have believed could issue from merely human throats. 

By its volume and extent the uproar was an appalling 
revelation of the number of those who had surrounded us, 
and I tell you that we seven men in that hut in the clear- 
ing were properly frightened. It seemed a miracle that 
they did not sweep over us in one great irresistible wave 
and bear us down and blot us out. Yet such was their su- 
perstitious fear of things they did not understand, that 
from the cover of our frail little hut our few firearms still 
held them at a distance. 

Never dreaming that their own power was infinitely su- 
perior to ours, attributing the death of their wizard to a 
witchcraft stronger than his own, they circled round and 
round us under cover of the forest and dared not come 
within gunshot. 

As day broke, and the sun rose like a ball of fire and 
blazed down on us and doubled the tortures that we had 
suffered in the night, we heard the drummers who had 



254 THE GREAT QUEST 

come to pound their drums by the body of the dead wiz- 
ard. The dramming throbbed and rolled in waves ; bells 
rang and hands clapped ; and all the time there was shriek- 
ing and wailing and moaning. 

They drummed the stars down and the sun up, and 
when at noon there had been no respite from the din, 
which by then fairly tortured us, the other three, who had 
been talking together among themselves, called us to the 
board across the hut for conference. 

"Now, men," O'Hara began, "we'll make no foolish 
talk of being friends together ; surely we and you know 
how much such talk is worth. But we and you know, 
surely, that if one party of us is killed, the others will be 
killed likewise ; for we are too few to fight for our lives, 
even supposing as now that every man jack of us is alive 
and bustling. Is not that so ? 

"Now, lads, there's a chance we can break through 
their line and run for the river while the niggers is praying 
and mourning over that corpse yonder." 

O'Hara stopped as if for us to reply, and I glanced at 
Arnold, who, meeting my glance, turned to Abe Guptil 
and thoughtfully said, "Shall we take that chance, Abe?" 

"Take any chance, is my feeling, Mr. Lament. Chances 
are all too few." 

With a nod at O'Hara, Arnold replied, "We are agreed, 
I think. As you say, there is a chance. You three shall go 
first. We will follow." 

"It's a chance," O'Hara repeated, almost stubbornly. 

"We are in a mood for chances," Arnold returned. 
"But you three must go first." 

When O'Hara frowned, hesitated, and acceded, I won- 
dered if he thought we were gullible enough to let them 
come behind us. 

Arnold was quietly smiling, but the others, as they gath- 



CAKDS AND CHESS 255 

ered in the door, were grave indeed. There was not one of 
us who did not know in his heart that our hope was ut- 
terly forlorn. Only Arnold - - time and again I marveled 
at him ! - - sustained that amazing equanimity. 

Gleazen shouldered his pack, but the others let theirs lie. 

"How about the rest of the baggage?" Arnold asked, as 
composedly as if he were setting out from the store in 
Topham upon a two days' journey. 

" Leave it to the devils and the ants," Matterson thickly 
retorted. 

Both he and Gleazen were lame from their wounds and 
must have suffered more than any of the rest of us. How 
they could face the long, forced march, I did not under- 
stand ; for though hunger and thirst were my only troubles, 
my head swam when I moved quickly and my limbs were 
now very light, now heavier than so much lead. But 
Gleazen had long since shown his mettle, and Matterson, 
although he staggered when he walked, set his teeth as he 
leaned against the wall and waited to start. 

If the truth were told, we had no real hope of getting 
away ; and immediately whatever desperate dreams we 
clung to were frustrated ; for, as we appeared in front of 
the hut and weakly started down the hill, there came a 
sudden lull in the mad wailing over the dead wizard ; black 
warriors appeared on all sides of us, and a line of them, 
like hornets streaming out of their nest, emerged from the 
forest and massed between us and the spring. 

"Come, men, it's back to the house," said O'Hara; and 
back we went, each party to its own side as before, but 
each turning to the others as if for what pitiful mutual re- 
assurance there could be in such a situation. 

"There's war from here to the coast," Matterson mut- 
tered. "Such a war as never was before." 

The voice that issued from his dry throat was so thick 



256 THE GREAT QUEST 

and husky that I should never have known it for the light, 
effeminate voice of Matterson. 

"It's bad," said Gleazen, "but so help me, they'll be 
cleaning out old Parmenter and putting an end to the 
sniveling psalm-singers on this river. And then, lads ! Ah, 
then '11 be great times ahead, if once we get free and clear 
of this accursed hornets' nest." 

In the face of our desperate danger, the man was actu- 
ally exultant. But I thought of the girl at the mission, and 
a dread filled my heart, so strong that the room went black 
and I sat down, literally too sick to stand. 

With never a word poor Uncle Seth was pacing back and 
forth across the hut. Of us all, he alone had the liberty of 
the entire place ; but it was a tolerant, contemptuous lib- 
erty that the others gave him, and nothing else would 
have testified so vividly to the way he had fallen in their 
regard. 

It seemed incredible that this pale, gaunt, voiceless 
man, who suffered so much in silence, who without com- 
ment or remark let matters take their own course, who 
resented no indignity and aspired to no authority, could 
be that same Seth Upham who had made himself one of 
the leading men of our own Topham. And indeed it was 
not the same Seth Upham ! Something was broken ; some- 
thing was lost. In my heart of hearts, I knew well enough 
what it was, but I could not bear to put the thought into 
words. No man in my place, who had a tender regard for 
old tunes and old associations, could have done so. 

There had been no life at all in our last attempt to leave 
the hut. We faced the future now in the listlessness of 
despair. Still the extraordinary situation continued un- 
changed. Apparently, so long as we remained in the hut, 
we were to be ignored. It seemed as if the black fiends 
must know how bitterly we were suffering as hour after 



CARDS AND CHESS 257 

hour the clamor of their mourning rose and fell ; as if they 
were deliberately torturing us. 

When Matterson sat down on the floor with his back 
against the wall, and began to whittle out bits of wood 
from one of the legs of the table, I watched him with an 
inward passion that I made no effort to control. He, for 
one, was responsible for Seth Upham's sad plight, but 
with a heart as hard as the blade of his knife he calmly sat 
for hours whittling, and smiling over his work. 

All that day we heard the tumult in the forest ; all that 
day the sun blazed down on the hut and doubled and 
trebled the tortures of our thirst ; all that day Seth Uphara 
paced the hut in silence ; and from noon till late afternoon 
Matterson whittled at little sticks of wood. 

Piece by piece there grew before our eyes a set of chess- 
men. Rough and crude though the men were, they 
slowly took the familiar shapes of kings and queens and 
bishops and knights and pawns. When they were done, 
Matterson hunted through the pockets of the coat that 
the skeleton still wore, and found a carpenter's pencil, 
with which he blackened half the men. Then, grunting 
with pain as he moved, he drew a crude chessboard on the 
floor squarely in the middle of the hut. 

"Lamont," said he, " shall we play?" 

Arnold smiled. "I will play you a game," he said. 

And with that the two sat down by the board and tossed 
for white and set up the crudely carved men, and began 
perhaps the most extraordinary game of chess that ever 
two men played. 

There was something admirable in their very bravado. 
While the rest of us watched the clearing, every man of us 
suffering from thirst and hunger, the tortures of the 
damned, those two, swaying sometimes from sheer weak- 
ness, played at chess as coolly as if it were one of the games 



258 THE GREAT QUEST 

that Arnold and Sim had played of old in my uncle's store 
at Topham ; and although to this day I have never really 
mastered chess, I knew enough of it to perceive that it was 
no uneven battle that they fought. As the pawns and 
knights advanced, and the bishops deployed, and the 
queens came out into the board, the two players became 
more and more absorbed in their game, which seemed to 
take them out of themselves and to enable them to forget 
all that had happened and was happening. 

Indeed, it well-nigh hypnotized those of us who were 
only watching. The ghastly calm of the two, the fierceness 
with which they fixed their eyes on each move, the cool- 
ness with which they ignored the wild clamor, all helped 
to compose the rest of us, and by their example they made 
us ashamed of revealing to one another the fears we were 
struggling against. 

"Neil," said O'Hara suddenly, his harsh, hoarse 
voice startled even the chess-players, " shall we have a 
turn at cards? I do believe there's a wonderful solace in 
such hazards." 

"Cards !" Gleazen echoed. His own voice was stranger 
than O'Hara's. "We have no cards." 

From the pocket of the blue coat on the skeleton O'Hara 
drew out a dingy old pack, which a dead man's fingers had 
placed there. 

"Sure, and I know where to find them," he said. "Never 
did Bull travel without them." 

With that the two squatted on the floor, and shuffled 
the cards with a pleasant whir, and dealt and played and 
dealt again. 

It was as if our party had suddenly been transported 
back to Topham. Such nonchalance was almost beyond 
my understanding. Matterson, by his cool, bold defiance 
of danger, seemed to have aroused emulation in every one 




And with tltat the two sat down by the board . . . and began perhaps the 
most extraordinary game of chess that ever two men played. 



CARDS AND CHESS 259 

of us ; and Gleazen, always reckless, now talked as lightly 
and gayly of the games as if it were a child's play to while 
away the dull hours of a holiday afternoon. 

For the time, abandoning the agreement that neither 
side should trespass on the other's half of the hut, Abe and 
I watched from window to window lest the blacks take us 
by surprise, and now and then we would see someone ob- 
serving the hut from under the trees a long gunshot away. 
But although the wails and yells and moans and the con- 
stant drumming over the dead wizard never ceased, no 
man came from the cover of the vines into the clearing. 

Now Arnold precisely and clearly said, "Check." 

Matterson swore and snapped his fingers and moved. 

Again Arnold moved, and again he said, "Check!" 

Matterson bent over the board and frowned. After a 
long delay he moved once more. 

Instantly Arnold moved again and in his calm voice re- 
peated, "Check!" 

Matterson looked up at him with a strange new respect 
in his eyes. 

"You win ! " he cried with an oath. "You 've done well. 
I did n't think you could. You are a chess-player." 

"I have played a good deal," Arnold quietly replied. 

"You have played with better men than Sun Muzzy." 

"Yes." For a moment Arnold hesitated, then he added : 
"I have beaten at chess a great man. It was like to have 
cost me my sword and my head." 

"Your sword?" Matterson repeated slowly. "Your 
sword and your head ? " 

There was a question in his voice, but Arnold did not 
answer it. Returning a curt, "Yes," as if regretting that 
he had said so much, he brushed Matterson's chessmen 
together, and looked out of the door and down the long 
slope at the tall green grass beside the spring, which seemed 



260 THE GREAT QUEST 

as far away from us as did our own well, thousands of miles 
away in Topham. 

And still Gleazen and O'Hara played on. Time and 
again we heard the whir of shuffling and the slap of cards 
flung on top of one another. 

Now the sun was setting. The swift twilight came upon 
us and faded into darkness, and the card-players also 
stopped their game. 



CHAPTER XXVI 

AN UNSEEN FOE 

ALL day Seth Upham had scarcely said a word. From 
dawn until dark he had paced the hut, apparently buried 
deep in thought. Only his gaunt, pitiful face revealed 
the extent to which he shared our tortures. 

Now for the first time in all that day, to our surprise, he 
spoke ; and his first words confirmed every fear we had felt 
for him. 

"The boys ought not to make so much noise," he said. 
"I must speak to the constable about it." 

Matterson softly swore and shifted the bandage on his 
face. Gleazen significantly looked over at me. Abe Guptil 
stood with his mouth open and stared at Seth Upham. 

Never boys of a New England town made such an up- 
roar as was going on outside. Those wails and yells and 
hideous drummings and trumpetings were African in every 
weird cadence and boisterous hoot and clang. 

Then, as if the first words had broken a way through his 
silence, Seth Upham began to talk in a low, hurried voice ; 
and however reluctant we had hitherto been to believe 
that he was mad, there was no longer any hope for him at 
all. The man had lost his mind completely under the ter- 
rific strain that he had endured. 

Small wonder when you think of all that had happened : 
of how, for Cornelius Gleazen's mad project, he had thrown 
away a place of honor and assured comfort back hi Top- 
ham ; of how he had been driven deeper and still deeper 
into Gleazen's nefarious schemes by blackmail for we 
knew not what crimes that he had committed in his 



262 THE GREAT QUEST 

young-manhood ; of how, even in that alliance of thieves, 
he had fallen from a place of authority to such a place 
that he got not even civil treatment ; of how he had lost 
reputation, livelihood, money, and now even his vessel. 

"I declare, we must put in another constable," he mut- 
tered. "Johnson can't even keep the bo3 r s in order - - In 
order, did you say? Who else should keep the place in 
order? - - Sim, if only you had wits to match your good 
intentions ! How can you expect to keep books if you can't 
keep the stock in order ? - He stopped suddenly and 
faced the door. "Hark ! Who called? I declare, I thought 
I was a lad again." 

Moment by moment, as he paced the hut, we watched 
his expression change with the mood of his delirium, 
sometimes I have wondered if the fever of the tropics did 
not precipitate his strange frenzy, and moment by mo- 
ment his emotions seemed to become more intense. 

Now, pursuing that latest fancy, he talked about his 
boyhood and told how deeply he repented of the wicked 
life he had led as a young man ; told us, all unwittingly, of 
unsuspected ambitions that had led him from wild ways 
into sober ones, and of his youthful determination to win 
a creditable place hi the community ; told us of the hard 
honest work that he had given to accomplish it. Now he 
revealed the pride he had taken in all that he had suc- 
ceeded in doing and building, and - - which touched me 
more than I can tell you - - how he had counted on me, 
his only kinsman, to take his place and earry on his work. 
All this, you understand, not as if he were talking to us or 
to anyone else, but as if he were thinking out loud, as 
indeed he was, merely running over in his own mind 
the story of his life. 

Now he reverted again to his repentance for the wicked 
youth that he had lived. And now, suddenly, his manner 



AN UNSEEN FOE 263 

of speaking changed, and from merely thinking aloud he 
burst out into wild accusation. 

"The dice are loaded," he cried, his voice was hoarse 
and strained with the agonies that he, like all of us, had 
endured and was still enduring, "the dice are loaded. 
I'll not play with loaded dice, Neil Gleazen !" 

At that Gleazen gasped out a queer whisper. 

But already Seth Upham's mind was racing away on an- 
other tack. 

"Aye, loaded with the blessed weight of salvation. 
Did n't my old mother, God bless her, teach me at her 
knee that a man's soul can never die? Our Father, who 
art in heaven, hallowed be thy name - 

Staring at him in horror, we saw that he was not blas- 
phemous. The words came reverently from his weak lips. 
He simply was mad. 

Suddenly in a high-pitched voice, he began to sing, 

"Low at Thy gracious feet I bend, 
My God, my everlasting friend." 

He sang three stanzas of the hymn in a way that appalled 
every one of those three men who of us all, I think, were 
least easily appalled indeed, I think that for once they 
were more appalled than the rest of us ; certainly none of 
them had Arnold's composure or Abe's obvious, almost 
overpowering sympathy for poor Seth Upham. Then he 
stopped and faced about with eyes strangely aflame. In 
his manner now there was all his old imperiousness and 
something more, an almost noble dignity, a commanding 
enthusiasm, which, whether it came from madness alone or 
whether it had always been in him, got respect even from 
Matterson and O'Hara. 

"I am going to meet my God face to face at the throne 
of Judgment," he cried. 



264 THE GREAT QUEST 

It was the first time in days that he had addressed us 
directly, and he spoke with a fierce intensity that amazed 
us; then, before we guessed what was in his disordered 
mind, before a man of us could stop him, he stepped out- 
side the door and flung his arms straight out like a cross, 
and with his head thrown back marched, singing, into the 
darkness. 

"By Heaven!" Gleazen gasped, "he has set sail now 
for the port of Kingdom Come !" 

We who remained in the hut, where a spell of silence 
had fallen, could hear him strongly and clearly singing as 
he strode down the long, dark vista toward the spring : 

"Lo what a glorious sight appears 

To our believing eyes ! 
The earth and seas are past away, 
And the old rolling skies ! " 

It may seem strange to one who reads of that fearful 
night that we did not rush after him and drag him back. 
But at the time we were taken completely by surprise, lit- 
erally stupefied by the extraordinary climax of our days 
and nights of suffering and anxiety ; and even then, I 
think, certainly I have later come to believe it, we 
felt hi our inmost hearts that it was kinder to let him go. 

He went down the hill, singing like an innocent child. 
His voice, which but a moment before had been patheti- 
cally weak, had now become all at once as clear as silver. 
And still the words came back from the tall grass by the 
spring, where creatures ten thousand times worse than 
any crawling son of the serpent of Eden lay in wait for 
him: 

"Attending angels shout for joy, 
And the bright armies sing, 
Mortals, behold the sacred feet ; 
Of your descending King." 



AN UNSEEN FOE 265 

Then the song quavered and died away, and there came 
back to us a queer choking cry ; then the silence of the 
jungle, enigmatic, ominous, unfathomable, enfolded us all, 
and we sat for a long time with never a word between us. 

The wailing and drumming over the body of the dead 
wizard had suddenly and completely ceased. At what was 
coming next, not a man of us ventured to guess. 

Gleazen was first to break that ghastly silence. "They 
got him," he whispered. For once the man was awed. 

"No," said Arnold Lamont, very quietly, "they have 
not got him. Unless I am mistaken, his madness purged 
his soul of its black stains, and he went straight to the 
God whose name was on his lips when he died." 

Of that we never spoke again. Some thought one thing ; 
some, another. We had no heart to argue it. 

Poor Uncle Seth ! What he had done in his youth that 
brought him at last to that bitterly tragic end, perhaps no 
other besides Cornelius Gleazen really knew, and Cornelius 
Gleazen, be it said to his everlasting credit, never told. 
But for all that, I was to learn a certain story long after- 
ward and far away. Not one man in hundreds of thousands 
pays such a penalty for blasphemous sins of his mature 
years ; and whatever Seth Upham had done, however dark 
the memory, it had been a boy's fault, which he had so 
well lived down that, when Cornelius Gleazen came back 
to Topham, no one in the whole world, except those two, 
would have believed it of him. 

In that grim, threatening silence, which enfolded us like 
a thick, new blanket, we forgot our own quarrel ; we al- 
most forgot the very cause for which we had risked, and 
now bade fair to lose, our lives. 

We were six men, two of us wounded, three of us arrant 
desperadoes, but all of us at least white of skin, surrounded 
by a black horde that was able, if ever it knew its own 



266 THE GREAT QUEST 

power, to wipe us at one blow clean off the face of the 
earth. Now that the terrible thing which had just hap- 
pened had broken down and done away with every thought 
of those trivial enmities that fed on such unworthy mo- 
tives as desire for riches, our common danger bound us, in 
spite of every antagonism, closer together than brothers. 
By some strange power that cry which had come back to 
us when Seth Upham's song ended not only enforced a 
truce between our two parties, but so brought out the 
naked sincerity of each one of us, that we knew, each and 
all, without a spoken word, that for the time being we 
could trust one another. 

Gleazen, always reckless, was the first to break the si- 
lence. From the wall he took down a pewter mug, which 
the dead man they called Bull had hung there. Pretend- 
ing to pour into it wine from an imaginary bottle, he 
looked across it at Arnold. 

"This is not the vintage I should choose for my toast," 
he said with a wry mouth, "but it must serve. Yes, La- 
mont, it must serve." He raised the mug high. "In half 
an hour we '11 be six dead men. I drink - - to the next one 
to go." 

Arnold coolly smiled. Pretending to raise a glass and 
clink it against the mug, he, too, went through the pan- 
tomime of drinking. 

I was not surprised that Abe Guptil was staring at them, 
his lips parted, or that his face was pale. Although drunk 
only hi make-believe, it was a toast to make a man think 
twice. I drew a deep breath ; I could only admire the cool- 
ness of the two. 

Yet now and then there flashed in Arnold's eye a hint of 
resourceful determination such as Gleazen probably never 
dreamed of, a hint of scorn for such theatrical trickery. 

We were all on our feet now, standing together in our 



AN UNSEEN FOE 



267 



silent truce, when we heard for the last time that sound, 
so unhappily familiar, the long-drawn wailing cry that, 
whenever the wizard spoke, had preceded and followed his 
harangue. Coming from the dark forest beyond the clear- 
ing, it brought home to us more vividly than ever the 
ominous silence that had ensued since Seth Upham fell by 
the spring. Then that familiar, accursed voice, faint but 
penetrating, came from the wall of vines : - 

"White man, him go Dead Land ! 

"White man, him go Dead Land ! 

"White man, him go Dead Land ! 




CHAPTER XXVII 

THE FORT FALLS 

"Now, by the holy," O'Hara whimpered, "it's fight for 
our lives, or hand them away like so many maundy 
pennies." 

"Fight, is it?" Gleazen roared. And forgetting his stiff 
wounds, he sprang to his feet. " Load those guns ! Name 
of heaven, be quick!" 

Why at this particular time the bawling voice of the na- 
tive should thus have called us to action is not easy to say, 
for you would think that, having become familiar with it, 
we should have regarded it with proverbial contempt. 
But we knew that the deadlock could not last forever ; 
Seth Upham's fate was all too vivid in our minds ; and I 
really think that, in the strange voice itself, there was 
more than a hint of what was to follow. 

Forgotten now was the edict that one party should stay 
on one side of the hut, the other on the opposite side. 
Forgotten, even, was the bag of stones in Gleazen's pack. 
Armed with every weapon that the hut afforded, we stood 
behind door and window and saw a sight that appalled 
the bravest of us. 

Straight up the hill from the spring where they had 
killed Seth Upham there streamed a raging black horde. 
The rising moon shone on their spears and revealed the 
endless multitudes that came hard at the heels of the lead- 
ers. Their yells reverberated from wall to wall of the forest 
and even, it seemed to us, to the starry sky above them. 

As we fired on them, the streamers of flame from our 
guns darted into the night and the acrid smoke drifted 



THE FORT FALLS 269 

back to us. But though they faltered, this time they came 
doggedly on. Already in the moonlight we could distin- 
guish individuals ; now we could see their contorted fea- 
tures alive with rage and vindictiveness. That they would 
take the hut by storm, there was not the slightest doubt ; 
nor was there a ray of hope that we should survive its fall. 

It was a long, long way from Topham to that wattled 
hut in a clearing on the side of an African hill, and in 
more ways than one it was a far call from Higgleby's barn. 
But it was Higgleby's barn that I thought of then 
Higgleby's barn in the pasture, with a light shining through 
a crack between the boards, and a boy scaling the wall 
under the window ; Higgleby's barn in the dark, with 
tongues of flame running out from it through the grass. 
Truly, I thought in metaphor, which was rare for me, the 
fire that sprang up so long ago in Higgleby's barn had al- 
ready killed Seth Upham, and now it was going to enfold 
and engulf us all. 

Then I thought of the mission on the river, and the girl 
whom I had seen first among the mangroves, then in the 
darkness on the mission porch. Did the war actually 
reach to the coast? And would the war wipe out "old 
Parmenter" as Gleazen had said? By heaven, I thought, 
it would not and it should not ! 

All this, of course, takes far longer to tell, than it took 
to go coursing through my mind. In the tune it took to 
think it out, not one black foot struck the ground ; not one 
left the ground. Before that racing army of negroes had 
advanced another step, the answer had come to me ; and 
now, no longer the boy who had climbed in idle curiosity 
the wall of Higgleby's barn, but a man to think and act, I 
cried from my dry throat : 

"Out of the back window, men ! O'Hara, help me brace 
the door ! Out of the window and over the hill !" 



270 THE GREAT QUEST 

With an oath Gleazen cried, "He's right! They're all 
coming on us up the hill ! The back way 's our only 
chance!" 

O'Hara, hi spite of my call for help, led the way out of 
the back window; but Arnold paused to jam chairs and 
boards against the door ; and Gleazen, ever reckless, 
stooped in the darkness and picked something up. As we 
sprang to the window, he came last of all, and I saw that 
he, the only one to think of it in that hour of desperate 
peril, was of a mind to bring his pack - - the pack that had 
held the thing for which we had left our homes and 
crossed the seas. I saw Matterson clinging to brave Abe 
Guptil's shoulder, and striving desperately, with Abe's 
help, to keep pace with O'Hara, who in all this tune had 
not got so much as a scratch. I saw the forest wherein lay 
our sole hope of safety, and terribly far off it seemed. 
Then I rolled out into the moonlight, and ran as if the 
devil were at my heels. 

Almost at once I heard Gleazen come tumbling after 
me, and gasp with a frightful oath that the pack had 
caught and he had left it. 

As we ran, we kept, as far as possible, the house between 
us and the blacks, and so intent were they on attacking 
our little citadel, that for a moment or two they overlooked 
our flight. 

We heard their cries as they battered down the door, 
their eager shouts, their sudden silence, and then the fierce 
yell of discovery when they saw us hi the moonlight. It 
occurred to me then that, but for my poor uncle's death 
down by the spring, which had very likely caused them to 
break their circle and gather there in the open, we should 
not have had so easy a time of it when we fled over the 
hill behind the hut. Weak though we were, despair was a 
mighty stimulus and we ran desperately for the woods ; 



THE FORT FALLS 271 

but although we had got a fair start, the pack was now 
yelping in full cry on our trail. 

The pitiful futility of it all, I thought. Seth Upham was 
dead - - the stones were lost - - we ourselves were hunted 
for our lives ! As I staggered after the others straight into 
the wall of almost impenetrable vines, I turned in the act 
of wriggling through it and let fly with my pistol. Com- 
pared with the muskets, the pistol made a dainty little 
spit of fire and sound, but it served to delay the foremost 
negroes, and with our scanty hopes a little brighter for 
their hesitation, I struggled on to come up with the others. 

It was well for us, after all, that O'Hara had taken the 
lead. Say what you wdll against him, the man knew the 
country. First, guided by the general lay of the land, he 
led us down the hill, through rocks and brush, straight to 
a stream where we drank and - - warned by Arnold La- 
mont fought against the temptation to drink more than 
a tiny fraction of what we desired. 

Revived by the plunge into water, we turned and fol- 
lowed O'Hara up the stream-bed, bending low so that no 
onlooker could see us, climbed a great precipitous hill 
down which the stream tumbled in noisy cascades that 
hid every sound of our flight, drank again, and kept on 
up into the rocks away from the water. Not daring to 
raise our heads above the dry bed of the rainy-season tor- 
rent along which we now hurried, we never once looked 
back down the slope up which we had toiled, panting and 
puffing and reeling ; but behind us, far behind us now, we 
could hear the shrieks and yells of the disappointed sav- 
ages, who, having outflanked the timber into which we 
disappeared, and having wasted many minutes in beating 
through it, a manoeuvre that their wholesome respect for 
our firearms had much delayed, had now come out on the 
brow of the rocky declivity leading down to the creek, and 



272 THE GREAT QUEST 

were losing much time, if we could judge by their clamor, 
in arguing which way we were likely to have gone. 

I wonder if the whole performance to which we owed our 
lives was not characteristic of the natives of the African 
coast ? If therein did not lie just the difference between a 
people so easily led into slavery and a people that never, 
whatever their weaknesses have been, have yielded to 
their oppressors ? It all happened long ago, and it was my 
only acquaintance with black warfare ; but surely we 
could never thus have thrown American Indians off the 
scent. 

It seemed to me, then, that we had made good our es- 
cape and could run straight for the river, and in my en- 
thusiasm I said as much. But Arnold and Abe Guptil 
shook their heads, and O'Hara significantly raised his 
hand. "Hark!" 

I listened, and realized that an undertone of sound, 
which I had heard without noticing it, as one hears a 
clock ticking, was the rumble of drums miles and miles 
away. While I listened, another drum far to the north 
took up the grim throbbing note, then another to the east. 
Then, mingling with the swelling voice of all the drums, 
how many of them there were, or in how many villages, 
I had not the vaguest notion, I heard human voices 
down the hill on our right, and after a time other voices 
down the hill on our left. I then knew that however stupid 
our pursuers might seem, to reach the river was no such 
easy task as I had hoped. 

For an hour we lay hidden among the rocks, with the 
world spread out before us in the moonlight. Here and 
there were small points of fire, which shone as if they were 
stars reflected on water, we knew, of course, that there 
was no water, and that they must, therefore, be lights of 
village or camp, and twice, at a distance of half a mile, 



THE FORT FALLS 273 

men passed with torches. But for the most part we lay 
shoulder to shoulder, with only the moon and the* twin- 
kling points of light to awaken our meditations. 

I thought of Uncle Seth dead in the grass by the spring 
down to which he had gone so bravely. I thought of the 
hut in which, so far as we knew, still lay the skeleton and 
the bag of pebbles. And while I was thinking thus, I 
heard to the southeast the sound of gunshots. 

First came several almost together like a volley, then 
another and another, then two or three more, and after 
that, at intervals, still others. 

O'Hara looked first at the sky and then in the direction 
of the shooting. "They're attacking a trader's caravan," 
he said. "There'll be white men in it, surely. The thing 
for us to do, my lads, is to join up with them. They'll 
have food." 

"Aye, but how?" asked Gleazen. 

As if in answer to his question, a terribly discourag- 
ing answer ! we heard, when we stopped to listen, com- 
ing up to us out of the night from every side, near and far, 
the throbbing of drums. 

"Aye, 'how?'" O'Hara repeated. 

"Can we not," I asked, "work down toward them and 
break through the blacks?" 

"The war has gone to the coast by now, and they are 
attacking all comers. But it's us they're keen on the trail 
of, all because Bull built his house on a king's grave and 
a blithering idiot killed a devil. 'T is true, Joe. If we 
could work down toward them, come three o'clock hi the 
morning, it might happen even as you say." 

There were no torches, now, to be seen ; no voices were 
to be heard. There were only the fixed lights shining like 
stars and the steadily throbbing drums. Whether or not, 
back on our trail, the blacks were still hunting for us, 



274 THE GREAT QUEST 

we did not know ; but by all signs that we could see, 
they were settling quietly down for the remainder of the 
night. 

"And if it don't happen like you say," O'Hara added 
as an afterthought, "we'll be nearer the river surely, and 
there may be hope for us yet." 

At that he looked at Gleazen and smiled, and Gleazen 
softly laughed and nudged Matterson, at which Matter- 
son swore, because Gleazen's elbow had touched a wound. 
Then they all three looked at one another and laughed ; 
and remembering the board in the centre of the hut and 
the law that neither side should trespass on the part al- 
lotted to the other, I heartily wished that we had another 
such board and another such law. We had agreed upon 
our truce under the stress of great danger. Take away 
that danger, I thought, and there would be nothing to 
keep the old coals of hate from springing into flame anew. 

Down from the hilltop we went, slowly picking our way 
among the boulders, to still another brawling stream at the 
foot. There we drank and waited and reconnoitred, and 
finally, convinced that we were in no immediate danger, 
pushed on after our guide, O'Hara. 

He first led us down the ravine and through a wild and 
wooded country ; but within two miles the sound of drums, 
which had become louder and nearer, warned us of a vil- 
lage ahead, and, leaving the stream, we climbed a hill, 
passed through scattered patches of plantains and yams, 
from which we took such food as would dull the edge of our 
hunger, came down again into dense timber, worked our 
way through it, and emerged at last into an open space 
above a broad plain. 

And all this long way faithful Abe Guptil had half car- 
ried, half dragged the great body of Matterson, who 
fought hard to keep up with the rest of us and strove to 



THE FORT FALLS 275 

regain the strength that his wound had taken from him, 
but who despite his bravest efforts, still was sadly weak. 

As well as we could judge by the interminable drum- 
ming, there were villages on our right and on our left and 
behind us. By the stars we estimated that it was still an 
hour before dawn, and by lights on the plain we guessed at 
the location of the camp of which we had come in search. 

We had already wandered so far from the road by which 
we had come to the mountain, that it seemed as if only a 
miracle could bring us back to the place on the river where 
we had left our boat ; but in that respect O'Hara was no 
mean worker of miracles, for his years in Africa had given 
him an uncanny judgment of direction and distance. 

"Yonder will be the river," he said, pointing slightly to 
the left ; "and yonder will surely be the camp where we 
heard guns firing. Below there'll be a road and the camp 
will be on the road. I know this place ; I Ve been here 
before." 

With that he once more plunged down the steep de- 
clivity and through a growth of scrubby trees to a great 
prairie, where, even as he had said, a road ran in the direc- 
tion that our journey led us. Fire not long since had 
burned over the meadow, and spears of grass from fifteen 
to twenty feet high had fallen across the road and tangled 
and twisted so that most of the time we had to bend al- 
most double as we walked. But in that early morning 
hour there were no travelers on the road except occasional 
deer, which went dashing off through the grass ; and it 
crossed many streams into which we plunged our hot faces. 
With water for our thirst and plantains for our hunger, we 
fared on, until, just as dawn was breaking, we came in 
sight of the red coals of a fire. 

O'Hara raised his hand and we stopped. "The niggers 
are ahead of us," he whispered. "Beyond the niggers will 



276 THE GREAT QUEST 

be the caravan surely, and beyond the caravan there '11 be 
more niggers." 

"The question, then, my friends," said Arnold, slowly, 
"is whether to go round them and on alone, or to go 
through the blacks and take our chances on a friendly re- 
ception from whoever is camping just ahead." 

"That," said O'Hara, "is the question." 

"There's no doubt but they're traders," Gleazen mut- 
tered. "We '11 have to fight before we reach the river. The 
more on our side, the merrier, I say, when it comes to 
fighting." 

By our silence we assented. 

Arnold raised his hand. "It is by surprise, gentlemen, 
or not at all. Are you ready?' 1 

Breathing hard, we pressed closer together. 

"Quickly, then ! Together, and with speed !" 

Arnold's voice snapped out the orders as if we were a 
company of military. There was something so command- 
ing, so martial, in his manner and carriage, yet some- 
thing that fitted him so well and seemed so much a part of 
his old, calm, taciturn, wise way, that I felt a sudden new 
wonder at him, a feeling that, well though I thought I had 
known him, I never had known him. 

Then, brought all at once into action by the energy and 
force of his command, as was every one of the others, I 
started at the word as did they. Together we ran straight 
through the camp of sleeping blacks, so strong was 
Matterson's spirit, so great his eagerness, that he now kept 
pace with us almost without help, straight past the 
coals of their campfire, over the remnants of their evening 
meal, over their weapons and shields strewn in the road, 
and on toward their picket-line. As they woke behind us, 
bewildered, and groped to learn the cause of the sudden 
disorder, and realized what was happening, and started up 



THE FORT FALLS 277 

with angry cries, we leaped, one after another, actually 
leaped, over a black sentry nodding at his post, over a 
frail barrier that they had thrown up to conceal their 
movements, and charged down upon a threatening stock- 
ade behind which lay the caravan. 

That the caravan kept better watch than their besieg- 
ers, we learned first of all ; for even as we leaped the barri- 
cade and came racing down the road, a gun went off in our 
faces and a cry of warning called the defenders from their 
sleep. 

"Don't shoot!" O'Hara yelled. "We're white men! 
Don't shoot!" 

All now depended on the men of that caravan. Were 
they friends or foes, honest men or thieves, we had cast 
the dice, and on that throw our fate waited. 

I heard Gleazen bellowing in Spanish and Arnold La- 
mont calling in French ; then up I came with Matterson 
and Abe to the crude, hasty rampart of mud and grass, 
and over I tumbled upon a man who cried out in amaze- 
ment and raised his gun to strike me down, only to desist 
at the sight of my white face, which was no whiter than 
his own. Arnold was ahead of me ; Gleazen and Matterson 
came in, almost at the same moment ; then came Abe ; and 
last of all, dumb with terror, O'Hara, who had tripped and 
fallen midway between the two barricades and had nar- 
rowly escaped perishing at the hands of the negro guards. 

In we came and about we turned, side by side with the 
strange whites, and when the hostile spearmen showed 
signs of rushing upon us, we gave them balls from musket 
and pistol to remember us by, and they faltered and drew 
back. But that the end was not yet in sight the thudding 
of their drums and the growing chorus of their angry yells 
unmistakably told us. 

: Ha ! Dey t'ink dey git us yet," one of the strangers 



tr 



278 THE GREAT QUEST 

cried, hearing me speak to Arnold in English. "Dis one 
beeg war. Where he start, who know ? Dey fight, how dey 
fight ! Dey come down upon us whee ! Gun, spear 
when we start we have feefty slave. Ten we loos' before 
war hit us so we know and hit back. Ha ! Dis one beeg 
war!" 

"How far, tell me," gasped O'Hara, "has the fighting 
gone?' ; 

"Leesten!" The stranger lifted his hand. "Hear dem 
drum ? One here - - one dar one five mile 'way - - one 
ten mile 'way ! Oh, ev'ywhere dem drum ! Hear dem 
yell ! How far dis war gone - - dis war gone clean to Cuba ! 
Dis one beeg war, by damn !" 

"Has the war," I cried, "reached the mission on the 
river?" 

"Ha! You t'ink you see dat meession, hey? Dat 
meession, he fall down long since time, I'll bet. One good 
t'ing dat war he do." 

If only I had never seen the girl by the river, I thought. 
If only I could have forgotten her ! I turned away. Yet 
even then I would not have spared one iota of my brief 
memories of that girl with the strong, kind face and quiet 
voice. If I never saw her again, I still had something to 
hold fast. How many tunes, since Seth Upham went down 
to die by the spring, had I thought of that girl as one of the 
few people whom I should be glad to see again, and how 
many times had I wished that she did not think so ill of 
me ! 

"Tell me, you man, where from you come ? " the stranger 
now asked. "You come pop! So! Whee!" 

At that Gleazen spoke in Spanish, and the man turned 
like a cat taken unawares and looked at him with shrewd, 
keen eyes. Then Matterson came up to them and like- 



THE FORT FALLS 279 

wise began to talk in Spanish, and others crowded round 
them. 

Arnold, after listening for a moment, drew me to one 
side. "See," he murmured. 

Following his gesture, I looked around the camp and 
saw, in the middle of the clearing, thirty or forty cowering 
negroes bound fast by bamboo withes. Behind them and 
mingling with them were bullocks and sheep and goats. 
Moving restlessly about in the light of earliest morning 
were numbers of male and female slaves ; and on every 
side were baled hides and bundles of merchandise : ivory, 
rice, beeswax, and even, it was whispered, gold. 

"I fear, my friend," Arnold said in an undertone, "that 
our hosts are more to the taste of Gleazen than of our- 
selves." 

"You have heard them talking," I whispered. "Tell 
me what they said." 

"Only," replied Arnold, "that we have a ship and they 
have a cargo ; that it will be to our mutual advantage to 
join forces." 

I looked again at the captive negroes, and again thought 
of the girl at the mission and of the evil that she had at- 
tributed to me. 

"To join forces," I said, and in my excitement I spoke 
aloud, "in trading human beings? Not that!" 

The others turned. 

"What are you two talking about?" Matterson asked 
quickly in his light voice. 

"Of one thing and another," I replied, flushing. 

"Come," said Gleazen, boldly, "let us all talk together." 

"Dis one beeg war !" the trader cried. "To fight - - eet 
is all we can do. Fighting we go, da's what me, I say. 
See ! Sun, he come up !" 



280 THE GREAT QUEST 



'To that," said Arnold, "we all agree. We, sir, will go 
with you and fight by your side." 

"Good ! Me, I's happy. You brave men. Dis one beeg 
war, but we make plenty war back again." 

Then he cried out orders in Spanish, and the camp woke 
to the activities of the new day ; and while some of us held 
off the blacks, the rest of us ate our morning meal in the 
first golden sunlight of the dawn, with a hum and bustle 
of packing and harnessing and herding going on around us. 

But all the time the drums beat, and far away we would 
hear now and then calls and shouts that made the strange 
trader and Gleazen and O'Hara exchange significant 
glances. 

As with loaded muskets we fell in to guard the caravan, 
and the porters lifted their bundles, and the herders goaded 
their beasts, and the captive negroes started hopelessly on 
the road to the river, and the sudden hush of voices made 
the trample of feet seem three times louder than before, 
we heard guns behind us. 

u Ha ! Dose trade gun, hey?" the trader cried, and fell 
into Spanish. 

Wheeling his horse, he anxiously looked back along the 
road. 

One thing for which we had crossed the sea was lost in a 
hut overrun by an army of vengeful savages. There was 
no fortune left for us, I knew, unless it were a fortune 
gained by bartering human souls ; and at that, which lay 
at the real bottom of all Neil Gleazen's schemes, my heart 
revolted. What chance should we have had of saving for 
Seth Upham his ship and what money was left, even if he 
had lived? Small chance, I admitted. 

All day we drove on in a forced march, leaving the war 
to all appearances far behind us and stopping only at 
noon, by a clear cold stream in the forest, to eat a hasty 



THE FORT FALLS 281 

meal ; and at nightfall, crossing another stretch of prairie, 
we came to still another forest. 

"Here," the trader cried, "here ees one fine leetle river ! 
Here we camp one leetle while ! Den we go - - like fire 
when midnight come, mebbe we see one beeg river !" 

That we, who had come the night before from the house 
on the king's grave, were ready to rest, I can assure you. 
Never in all my life have I been so heavy with weariness, 
nay, with downright exhaustion, as on that evening at the 
edge of that African forest. 

The very beasts were weary after the long day's march. 
The trader's horse hung its head. The bullocks and goats 
and sheep plodded on before their noisy herders and 
scarcely quickened their pace at thrust of goad or snap of 
whip. The captive negroes, wretched creatures doomed to 
the horrors of the infamous middle passage in the hold of 
some Cuban or Brazilian slave-ship, wearily dragged along, 
their chins out-thrust, their hands lashed behind them. 
The traders' own slaves, bending under the weight of 
hides and rice and ivory, stumbled as they walked, and 
even the white men themselves, who had done nothing 
more than ride or walk over the road, breathed hard and 
showed drawn faces as they eagerly pushed on or appre- 
hensively looked back. 

Into the woods we pressed, thanking in our hearts the 
Divine Providence that here at least there was no throb 
of drum, no howling of black heathen, no war at all. The 
aisles between the great trees were cool and green and in- 
viting. The river rippled over rocks and suggested by its 
music the luxury of bathing ; fruits were to be had for the 
picking, and there was no doubt in my mind that our 
hosts would butcher a sheep for the evening meal. 

Water, food, and sleep at that moment seemed more 
desirable than all the dominions of Africa ; and water, 



282 THE GREAT QUEST 

food, and sleep, I was confident, were but now at hand. 
Into the forest we marched, for once relaxing the watch- 
fulness that we had maintained since sunrise, and down 
the trail to the creek that we could hear murmuring on its 
way over the rocks and through the underbrush. And 
there, at the end of our long day's journey, the bushes sud- 
denly blossomed in flame. 

Guns boomed in our very faces. Up and down the creek 
fire flashed in long spurts. The wind brought to our nos- 
trils the stinging smell of powder-smoke. Men and beasts 
were thrown into wild confusion. In the dim light of the 
forest I saw coming at us from all sides, naked men armed 
with trade guns and bows and spears and lances. Louder 
than the shouts and curses behind us, rang the exultant 
yells before us. 



CHAPTER XXVIII 

DOWN THE CURRENT 

WHEN I was a boy in school, I one day ran across a trans- 
lation of Homer's Iliad and carried it home and read it 
afternoons for a week. During those days I lived in the 
great pictures of the battles on the plains of Troy, and 
though afterwards I had seldom thought of them, they had 
never quite faded from my memory. 

It was far indeed from Homer's Iliad to an ambush in an 
African forest ; but the fight that ensued when we walked 
into that hornets' nest of black warriors nevertheless 
brought Homer's story vividly to my mind. The spears, 
I think, suggested the resemblance ; or perhaps the wild 
swiftness of the fight. First an arrow came whistling 
through the air and struck one of the men on the throat 
and went through his neck half the length of the shaft. 
He spun round, spattering me with dark blood that ran 
from a severed vein, and went down under the feet of the 
bullocks without a word. Then the bullocks turned, stam- 
peded by the sight and smell of blood, and crowded back 
upon the sheep and goats, and the porters dropped their 
burdens and tried to run. O'Hara threw up his musket 
and shattered the skull of a huge black who came at him 
with a knife like the blade of a scythe, and, himself stoop- 
ing to pick up the knife, grappled with another and died, 
shrieking, from a spear-thrust up under the ribs. Then one 
of the porters hurled a bundle at a man who was about to 
cut him down, and the bundle broke and a shower of yel- 
low gold scattered hi front of us, whereupon there was a 
short, fierce rush for plunder. 



it 

it 



284 THE GREAT QUEST 

Side by side with Arnold Lament and Gleazen, empty- 
ing my pistol into the crowd, I saw out of the corner of my 
eye that the blacks were cutting their way into the heart 
of the caravan for slaves and booty. 

Imagine, if you can, that motley horde which had rushed 
upon us out of the wood. Some, naked except for loin 
cloths, brandished spears and howled like enraged mani- 
acs ; some, in queer quilted armor and helmets with os- 
trich plumes, clumsily wielded trade muskets ; some ad- 
vanced boldly under the cover of shields and others, rang- 
ing through the underbrush, kept up a desultory flight 
of arrows. It was primitive, unorganized, ferocious war. 
Mon dieu, what a spectacle !" Arnold exclaimed ; then, 
Now, my friends, quick ! To the left ! While the thieves 
steal, we yet may escape !" 

Up from the mele"e, streaked with blood and dust, now 
came the trader. "All, all ees gone!" he wailed, and 
waved his arms and shrieked and stamped and cursed and 
jabbered on in Spanish. 

Had our enemies been content to delay their plundering 
until they had killed us all, not one of us would have es- 
caped to tell the true story of that bloody day. But at the 
sight of a rich caravan and loose gold, the blacks, in the 
twinkling of an eye, were fighting among themselves. 

"Quick !" again cried Arnold's voice, strangely familiar 
in the midst of that grotesquely unreal uproar, and as 
amazingly precise as ever. "Quick, gentlemen ! It is our 
only chance." 

And with that, he, Gleazen, Matterson, the trader, Abe, 
and I took to our heels into the bushes. The woods be- 
hind the line of the ambush appeared to be deserted. At 
the foot of a ravine ran the creek. We crossed it by a rude 
bridge of branches, hastily and silently climbed the op- 
posite bank, and stole off quite unobserved. 



DOWN THE CURRENT 285 

A hundred yards farther on, at the sound of a great 
thrash and clatter, we dove into the undergrowth and lay 
hidden while a band of blacks tore past us to the scene of 
battle. But getting hastily up as soon as they were out of 
sight, we resumed our headlong retreat. 

Every bush and tree darkly threatened us. Great rocks, 
deeply clothed in moss and tumbled so together as to form 
damp holes and caves, at once tempted us by their scores 
of hiding-places and filled us with apprehension lest natives 
might have hidden there before us. But as if we were play- 
ing the old game of follow-my-leader, we scrambled up and 
down, and in and out, and always hard ahead, until we 
again heard before us a rumble of voices and pounding feet, 
and a second tune, desperately, flung ourselves into the 
undergrowth and lay all atremble while half a hundred 
naked negroes, armed with bows and clubs and spears, 
came trotting, single file, like wolves, and passed us not 
fifty feet away. 

As they disappeared, and while we still dared not move, 
I saw something stir not five English cubits from my face. 
I caught my breath and stared at the thing. Ten feet 
ahead of it ; the leaves and ferns rustled, and twenty feet 
ahead of it then, twitching, it disappeared. I broke out 
from head to foot in sweat. Unwittingly, we had thrown 
ourselves down within hand's reach of a great serpent. 
Whether or not newly gorged, and so too sleepy to resent 
our nearness, it moved slowly away through the quivering 
undergrowth. 

When we had put a mile between ourselves and the 
plundered caravan, Matterson turned with an oath. 
"Poor Bud !" he said in his hard, light voice. "At least, 
we'll hear no more of jujus and devils and king's graves." 

Gleazen shrugged and turned to the trader. "How far 
is the river?" he asked. 



286 THE GREAT QUEST 

"Mebbe one mile - - mebbe two." 

"Do you, sir, know the road?" Arnold asked. 

The trader nodded and spread his hands as if in de- 
spair. "Know heem? I know heem, yes ! T'ree, ten, fifty 
time I come with slave and ivory and hide - - now all 
gone ! Forty prime slave all gone ! Ev'ytheeng gone !" 

Gleazen grunted. 

"Let us go to the river," said Arnold. 

"Heem reever go by town," wailed the trader. "Heem 
beeg town ! Walls so high and strong !" 

"Ah, that is another matter," said Arnold. "But let us 
go forward at all events. We may, for all that we can tell, 
strike the river below the town." 

So forward we went in the darkness, and a slow, tedious 
journey it was, particularly for Abe and me, who helped 
Matterson along as best we could ; but we avoided the 
town by the sound of drumming that issued from behind 
its walls, and having helped ourselves to fruit from the 
patches of cultivated land that we passed, we at last 
emerged from the darkness of the woods into the half light 
of a great clearing, and saw a vast, black, living surface on 
which strange lights played unsteadily. It seemed un- 
believable that it really could be the same river that we 
had left so long ago, in the sense of all that had hap- 
pened, so very long ago, and yet I knew, as I watched 
Gleazen and Matterson, that it must be the same. The 
black, swift current recalled to my mind the toil that we 
had expended in coming so far to so little purpose. In 
which direction the creek lay that we had entered on our 
way to the ill-fated hut, I had not the remotest idea ; but 
I looked a long time downstream toward the mission. 

Bearing around in a rough half-circle, we worked slowly 
down the bank, until the walls of the town itself were be- 
fore us, at a safe distance. 



DOWN THE CURRENT 287 

"Our boat," said Matterson, grimly, "is fifty miles 
away." 

"Wait here," said I. "There'll be canoes under the 
town. I'll get one." 

Gleazen made a motion as if to go himself, but Arnold 
shook his head. "No ; let Joe go first. He will learn where 
the canoes are, and do it more quietly than we." 

They all sat down by the edge of the water, and, leaving 
them, I went on alone. It took all the courage I could 
muster ; but having rashly offered, I would not hesitate. 

For one thing, it gave me time to think, and in a sense 
I desired to think, although in another sense it came to me 
that I was more afraid of my own thoughts than of all the 
walled towns in Africa. The living nightmare through 
which we had passed had left me worn in body and mind. 
That Uncle Seth, upon whom once I had placed every con- 
fidence, should have died so tragic a death, now brought 
me a fresh burst of sorrow, as if I realized it for the first 
time. It seemed to me that I could hear his sharp yet 
kindly voice speaking to me of little things in our life at 
Topham. I thought of one episode after another in those 
earlier days, some of them, things that had happened while 
my mother was alive ; others, things that had happened 
after her death ; all, things that I had almost forgotten 
long before. My poor uncle, I thought for the hundredth 
time my poor, poor uncle ! 

Then suddenly another thought came to me and I 
straightened up and stood well-nigh aghast. By the terms 
of my uncle's will, of which more than once he had told 
me, all that had been his was mine ! 

The river silently swept down between its high banks, 
past me who stood where the waves licked at my feet, past 
the black walls of the town, which stood like a sentinel 
guarding the unknown fastnesses of the continent of 



288 THE GREAT QUEST 

Africa, past high hill and low gravel shoal and bottomless 
morass, past pawpaw and pine palm and mangrove, to the 
mission and the sea. 

There I stood, as still as a statue, until after a long time 
I remembered my errand and, like one just awakened, con- 
tinued on my way. 

I found a score of canoes drawn up on the beach under 
the town, and very carefully placing paddles by one that 
was large enough for our entire party, I cautiously re- 
turned to the others and reported what I had done. To- 
gether we all slipped silently along the shore to the canoes, 
launched the one that I had chosen, and with a last glance 
up at the pointed roofs of the houses and the sharpened 
pickets of the stockade, silently paddled, all unobserved, 
out on the strong current and went flying down into the 
darkness. 

It had been one thing to row up stream against that cur- 
rent. It was quite another, and vastly easier, even though 
three of us were entirely ignorant of handling such a canoe, 
to paddle down the swift waters of midstream. Exerting 
always the greatest care to balance the ticklish wooden 
craft, which the blacks with their crude adzes had hewn 
out of a solid log, we sent it, even by our clumsy efforts, 
fairly flying past the trees ashore ; and as it seemed that 
we had struck the river many miles below the creek where 
we had left our boat, we had hopes that the one night 
would bring us within striking distance of the open sea. 
Indeed, I found myself watching every point and bend, in 
hope that the mission lay just beyond it. 

Estimating that daylight was still two hours away, we 
drew in shore at Gleazen's suggestion, to raid a patch of 
yams or plantains. 

"A man," he said arrogantly, but with truth, "can't go 
forever on an empty stomach." 



DOWN THE CURRENT 289 

Luckless venture that it was no sooner did the canoe 
grate on the beach than a wakeful woman in a hut on the 
bank set up a squealing and squalling. As we put out 
again incontinently into the river, we heard, first behind 
us, then also ahead of us, the roll of those accursed native 
drums. 

To this very day I abhor the sound of drumming. It has 
a devilishly haunting note that I cannot escape ; and small 
w r onder. 

We swept on down the current, but now, here and there, 
the river-banks were alive with blacks, and always the 
booming of drums ran before us, to warn the country that 
we were coming. Once, as we passed a wooded point, a 
spear flew over our heads and went hissing into the water, 
and I was all for putting over to the other bank. But Ar- 
nold, who could use his eyes and ears as well as his head, 
cried, "No! Watch!" 

All at once, under the dark bank of the river, there was 
screaming and splashing and floundering. The torches 
that immediately flared up revealed what Arnold, and now 
the rest of us, expected to see, but they also revealed in- 
distinctly another and more dreadful sight : on the shore, 
running back and forth in great excitement, were many 
men ; but in the troubled water a negro was struggling in 
vain to escape from the toils of a huge serpent, which was 
wrapping itself round him and dragging him down into the 
river where it had been lying in wait. 

To me, even though I knew that that very negro had 
been watching for a chance to waylay us, the sight of the 
poor fellow's horrible death almost overcame me. 

Not so with Matterson and Gleazen. 

With a curse, Matterson cried, "There's one less of 
them now." His light voice filled me with loathing. 

And Gleazen softly laughed. 



290 THE GREAT QUEST 

On down the river we went, with flying paddles, and 
round a bend. But as we passed the bend, I looked back, 
and saw coming after us, first one canoe, then two, then 
six, then so many that I lost all count. 

How far we had come in that one night, I had little or 
no idea ; but it was easy to see by the attitude of those 
who knew the river better than I, that the end of our 
journey was close at hand. Glancing round at our pur- 
suers, Gleazen spoke in an undertone to Matterson, and 
both they and the trader studied the shore ahead of us. 

"A scant ten miles," Gleazen muttered ; "only ten miles 



more.' 



I felt the heavy dugout leap forward under the fierce 
pull of our paddles. The water turned away from the bow 
in foam, and we fairly outrode the current. But fast 
though we were, the war fleets behind us were faster. By 
the next bend they had gained a hundred yards, by the 
next, another hundred. We now led them by a scant quar- 
ter of a mile, and if Gleazen had estimated our distance 
rightly, they would have had us long before we could 
reach port. But suddenly, all unexpectedly, round the 
next bend, not half a mile away, the mission sprang into 
sight. 

There it stood, in the early morning sun, as clean and 
cool and still as if it were a thousand miles away from 
Africa and all its wars. 

"Give me your pistols," Arnold cried; and when we 
tossed them to him and in frantic haste resumed our 
paddling, he coolly renewed the priming and one by one 
fired them at our pursuers. 

That the negroes had a gun we then learned, for they 
retorted by a single shot ; but the shot went wild and the 
arrows that followed it fell short, and our pistols cooled 
their eagerness. So we swept in to the landing by the mis- 



DOWN THE CURRENT 291 

sion, and beached the canoe, and ran up the long straight 
path to the mission house as fast as we could go, while the 
black canoemen paused in midstream and let their craft 
swing with the current. 

The place, as we came rushing up to it, was so quiet, so 
peaceful, so free from any faintest sign of the terrible days 
through which we had passed, that it seemed as if, after 
all, we had never left it ; as if we were waking from a 
troubled sleep ; as if we had spent a thousand years in the 
still, hazy heat of that very clearing. The face in the win- 
dow, the opening door, only intensified that uncanny sense 
of familiarity. 

The door opened, and the man we had seen before met 
us. His eyes were stern and inhospitable. 

"What?" said he. "Must you bring your vile quarrels 
and vile wars to the very threshold of one whose whole 
duty here is to preach the word of God?" 

"Those," cried Arnold, angry in turn, but as always, 
precise in phrase and enunciation, ' ' are hard words to cast 
at strangers who come to your gate in trouble." 

"Trouble, sir, of your own brewing," the missionary re- 
torted. "What you have been up to, I do not know. Nor 
have I any wish to save your rascally necks from a fate 
you no doubt richly merit." 

"Your words are inclusive," I cried. 

"They certainly include you, young man. If you would 
not be judged by this company that you are keeping, you 
should think twice or three times before embarking with 
it." 

"Father !" said a low voice. 

My heart leaped, but I did not turn my head. Down the 
river, manned by warriors armed to the teeth, came more 
canoes of the war. Behind them were more, and more, 
and still more. 



292 THE GREAT QUEST 

"Come, come, you sniveling parson," Gleazen bel- 
lowed, "where are your guns? Where's your powder? 
Come, arm yourself !" 

The man turned on him with a look of scorn that no 
words of mine can properly describe. 

"You have brought your dirty quarrel to my door," he 
said in a grim, hard voice. "Now do you wish me to fight 
your battles for you?' 

Steadily, silently, the canoes were swinging inshore. I 
saw negroes running into the clearing. On my left I heard 
a cry so shrill and full of woe that it stood out, even amid 
the ungodly clamor of the blacks, and commanded my 
attention. 

The man stepped down from the porch. 

"This," he said, turning, "is a house of peace. I order 
you to leave it. I will go down and talk with these men 
myself." 

"You'll never come back alive!" Matterson cried, and 
hoarsely laughed. 

At that the missionary, John Parmenter, merely smiled, 
and, afraid of neither man nor devil, walked down toward 
the river and fell dead with a chance arrow through his 
heart. 

There was something truly magnificent in his cold 
courage, and Gleazen paid him almost involuntary trib- 
ute by crying, "There, by heaven, went a brave man !" 

But from the door of the house the girl suddenly ran 
out. Her face was deathly white and her voice shook, but 
as yet there were no tears in her eyes. 

"Father !" she cried, and ran down the path, where oc- 
casional arrows still fell, and bent over the dead man. 

"Come up, you little fool," Gleazen shouted. "Come 
back!" Then he jumped and swore, as an arrow with a 
longer flight than its fellows passed above his head. 



DOWN THE CURRENT 293 

The canoes were drawing in upon the shore, very cau- 
tiously, deliberately, grimly, in a great half-moon, and 
more of them were arriving at every moment. 

I leaped from the porch and sped down beside the girl. 

"Come," I cried, "you we --can do nothing for 
him." 

"Is it you?" she said. "You - - I - - go back !" 

"Come," I cried hoarsely. 

"Don't leave him here." 

I bent over and lifted the body, and staggering under 
its weight, carried it up into the house and laid it on the 
couch in the big front room. 

All this time the noise within and without the mission 
was deafening. The blacks on the river w T ere howling with 
fury, and those ashore, who had not already fled to the 
woods, were wailing in grief and terror. Gleazen and Ar- 
nold Lament had joined forces to organize a defense, the 
one raving at the arrant cow r ards who were fleeing from 
first sight of an enemy, while the other turned the place 
upside down in search of arms. And still the blacks on the 
river held off, probably for fear of firearms, though there 
were indications that as their numbers grew, they were 
screwing up their courage to decisive action. 

The girl, suddenly realizing the object of Arnold's 
search, said quietly, "There are no weapons." 

Arnold threw his hands out in a gesture of despair. 

"If you wish to leave," she coldly said, "there is a boat 
half a mile downstream. You can reach it by the path 
that leads from the chapel. No one will notice you if you 
hurry." 

"Then," I cried, "we'll go and you shall come with us." 

Gleazen spoke to the trader in Spanish. 

Abe Guptil was beside me now and Arnold behind me. 
We three, come what would, were united. 



294 THE GREAT QUEST 

A louder yell than any before attracted our attention, 
and Matterson, who stood where he could see out of the 
window, called, "They're coming! Run, Neil, run!" 

At that he turned and fled, with the others after him. 

I stopped and looked into the girl's gray eyes. 

"Come!" I cried, "in heaven's name, make haste!" 

I had clean forgotten that the dead man by whom the 
girl was standing was her father; but her next words, 
which were spoken from deepest despair, reminded me of 
it grimly. 

"I will not leave him," she said. 

"You must!" 

"I cannot." 

"What," said I, "would he himself have had you do?" 

Her determination faltered. 

"Come! You cannot do anything more for him! 
Come." 

She shook her head. 

"Then I shall stay," I said. 

"No," said she, and I saw that there was a change in 
her manner toward me. 'You will go and I--I- 

Then she whistled and cried, "Paul ! Paul ! " 

The great black Fantee servant whom I had seen with 
her in the canoe on that day when first we met, appeared 
suddenly. 

"Come," she said. 

I now saw that Arnold Lament was running back to the 
door of the room. 

" Quick ! " he called. "Mon dieu, be quick ! " 

He stepped aside and let her go through the door first. 



CHAPTER XXIX 

THE FIGHT AT THE LANDING 

As we ran down the footpath, we heard them after us 
like hounds on the trail, and I tell you, it galled me to 
run from that cowardly pack. Oh, for one good fight, I 
thought ! For a chance to avenge Seth Upham, who lay 
miles away beside the spring at the king's grave, to avenge 
the stern man who had fallen so bravely in front of the 
mission ! For a chance to show the black curs that we 
w r ould and could meet them, though the odds against us 
were a hundred to one ! A chance to hold our own with 
them in defiance of their arms and numbers ! 

The hot pride of youth burned in my cheeks, and I was 
actually tempted to turn on them there and then ; but 
now I thought of something besides myself, of something 
besides Seth Upham's rights and my own : I thought of the 
girl who ran ahead of me so lithely and easily. Be the haz- 
ards what they might, be the shame of our retreat ever so 
great, she must not, while one of us lived, be left to that 
herd at our heels. 

So, running thus in headlong flight, out we came on the 
river bank. 

There was a boat on the river, made fast to a peg on the 
bank, and there was a long canoe drawn up in the bushes. 
But at a great distance, where a narrow channel led 
through the mangroves, we saw titanic waves rolling on 
the bar in shining cascades from which the sun was 
brightly reflected, and which, one after another, hurled ton 
upon ton of water into a welter of foaming whirlpools. 
And over the lifting crests of the surf we saw, standing off- 



296 THE GREAT QUEST 

shore, the topsails of a brig. The prospect of riding that 
surf in any boat ever built gave me, I confess without 
shame, a miserably sick feeling; and as if that were not 
enough, in through the mangroves to the shore hi front of 
us shot three canoes of the war, and cut us off from the 
river. 

Our time now had come to fight. With blacks behind us 
and blacks before us, we could no longer double and turn. 
The river, we knew, was alive with the canoes of the war. 
Already the black hornets were swarming through the 
woods and swamps around us. Three times now we had 
eluded them ; this time we must fight. Our guns were lost 
and only pistols were left. No longer, as in that fatal hut 
on the king's grave, in my heart I cursed the bull- 
headed stupidity of the man who built it and who had 
paid but a fraction of the price with his own life ! could 
we hold them at a distance by fear of firearms. Their 
frenzy by now brooked no such fear. To the brig, whose 
topsails we could descry miles off shore, we must win our 
way ; there lay our only hope. 

I thought of the voice of the wizard "White man him 
go Dead Land." Verily to the door of his Dead Land we 
had come ; and it seemed now that we must surely follow 
Bull and Seth LTpham and Bud O'Hara and many another 
over the threshold. 

"Men," said Arnold Lament, and his voice, calm, pre- 
cise, cutting, brought us together, "stones and clubs are 
not weapons to be despised in an encounter hand to hand." 

"Have into 'em, then!" Gleazen gasped. "All hands 
together!" 

"Mademoiselle," said Arnold, "keep close at our heels." 

The girl was beside me now. Her eyes were wide, but 
her lips were set with a courage that rose above fear. 
"Come," she cried, and set my heart beating faster than 



THE FIGHT AT THE LANDING 297 

ever, if it were possible > " they 're upon us from the rear !" 
Then she spoke to her great negro in a language that I had 
never heard, and came close behind us when we charged 
down on the blacks ahead. 

I fired my pistol and saw that the ball accounted for one 
of our enemies. I reeled from a glancing blow on the head, 
which knocked me to my knees ; but, rising, I lifted a great 
rock on the end of a rope, which evidently the girl or her 
father had used for an anchor, never negro tied that 
knot ! and swinging the huge weapon round my head, 
brought down one assailant with his shoulder and half his 
ribs broken. Now Arnold fired his pistol ; now Matterson 
pitched, groaning, into the boat. Now, with my bare 
hand, I parried a spear- thrust and, again swinging my 
rock, killed a negro in his tracks. 

Out of the corner of my eye I saw that the girl had 
shoved the canoe into the water. She was calling to us 
eagerly, but neither I nor the others could distinguish 
her words. 

As Gleazen, with an oath, cut the painter of the boat 
and leaped into her, the impulse of his jump carried her 
ten feet out from shore ; and instantly thrusting out the 
oars, he started to row away with Matterson and desert us. 

"Come back, you yellow cur!" Arnold cried. 

The trader, who had fought industriously but to no 
great purpose, now ran down the bank and, flinging him- 
self full length into the river, caught the stern of the boat, 
with outstretched fingers, and dragged himself into her, 
and at the same moment Abe Gup til, obviously with the 
intention of holding the boat until the rest of us should 
have a chance to embark, too, not of saving himself, 
fought his own way aboard and, in spite of violent efforts 
to lay hands on the oars, was carried, protesting, away. 

It is not to be thought that Gleazen had the remotest 



298 THE GREAT QUEST 

notion of saving our lives. Having got rid of Arnold and 
me, he could, as he very well knew, do what he pleased 
with the brig when once he had silenced Gideon North. 
But although he had every desire not to help us, he in 
truth did help us in very spite of himself : no sooner did he 
appear to be getting safely out into the river, than the 
blacks, who had us all but at their mercy, suddenly bent 
every effort to keep him, too, from escaping. 

" Let them go ! Let them go ! Oh, will you not come this 
way?" 

It was the girl again. There was not a drop of cowardly 
blood in her veins. She, in the bow of the canoe and her 
big black servant in the stern, held the craft against the 
bank. 

Taking advantage of the momentary respite that we got 
while the enemy was putting after Gleazen, Arnold and I 
fairly trembling in our haste - - Arnold missed his footing 
and plunged waist-deep into the river climbed in after 
them. 

All this, which has taken a long time to tell, happened 
like so many cracks of the whip. Each event leaped 
sharply and suddenly at the heels of another, so that it 
was really but a few seconds - - at all events less than a 
minute - - after our arrival at the shore w r hen we found 
ourselves gliding swiftly and noiselessly through a tiny 
channel among the mangroves, of which Gleazen had never 
dreamed. A turn of the paddle carried us out of sight of 
the struggle behind us, and it now appeared that, once out 
of sight, we were likewise out of mind. 

"Mademoiselle," said Arnold, with a manner at once so 
deferential and in itself so proud, that it puzzled me more 
than a little, "shall we not paddle? Permit me to take 
your place." 

"Thank you, no," she said. 



THE FIGHT AT THE LANDING 299 

" It is not fitting - ' he began. 

"I know the canoe, the river and the surf," she said. 
"It is safer that I keep the paddle." 

And to my surprise, as well as Arnold's, she did keep it 
and handled it in a w r ay that would have shamed our ef- 
forts had we been permitted to try. It was a strange 
thing in those days, when most women laced tightly, and 
fainted gracefully if ever occasion required, and played at 
croquet and battledore and shuttlecock, to see a slender 
girl swing a paddle with far more than a man's deftness 
and skill to make up for what she lacked of a man's 
strength. But though she appeared so slender, so frail, 
there was that in her bearing which told us that her life 
in that wild place had given her muscles of steel. The big 
Fantee, too, drove the long craft ahead with sure, powerful 
strokes ; so we shot out of the mangroves, out of the mouth 
of the river, into the full glare of the sun. 

For a time the sails of the brig had grown small in the 
distance, but already we saw that she had come about and 
was standing in again. Why, I wondered, did Gideon 
North not anchor? Why should he indefinitely stand off 
and on? How long had he been beating back and forth, 
and how long would he continue to wait for us if we were 
not to come ? We were long overdue at the meeting-place. 

"To think," I said, "that now we can go home to 
Topham!" 

"To Topham?" said Arnold. There was a question in 
his voice. "I should be surer of going home to Topham if 
we w r ere rid of Gleazen. Also, my friend, we must ride that 
surf to the open sea." 

The negro in the stern of the canoe now spoke up in 
gutturals. 

"See!" Arnold cried. 

Looking back up the river, we saw Gleazen and Abe 



300 THE GREAT QUEST 

Guptil, whom we had outdistanced by our short cut, now 
rowing madly downstream. Big and heavy though the 
boat was, they rowed with the strength that precedes de- 
spair, and sent her ploughing through the river with a 
wake such as a cutter might have left. In the stern beside 
the trader lay Matterson ; and though his face, we could 
see, was streaked with blood, he menaced the negroes up- 
stream with a loaded pistol. Arrows flew, and then a long 
spear hurtled through the air and struck the bow of the 
boat. But for all that, they bade fair to get clean away, 
and none of them appeared aware that w r e had slipped 
ahead of them in the race for life. 

Now we in the canoe had come to the very edge of the 
surf, where the surge of the breakers swept past us in 
waves of foam. Beyond that surf was the open sea, the brig 
and safety. Behind it were more terrors than we had yet 
endured. For a moment the canoe hung motionless in the 
boiling surge ; then, taking advantage of the outward flow 
and guided and driven by the hands of the great negro and 
the white, slender girl, she shot forward like a living crea- 
ture, rose on the moving wall of an incoming wave, yielded 
and for a brief space drew back, then shot ahead once 
more and passed over the crest just before the wave curled 
and broke. 

I heard a cry from behind us and knew that the others 
had discovered us ahead of them. 

Turning, as we pitched on the heavy seas at a safe dis- 
tance from the breakers, I watched them, too, row into the 
surf. I faintly heard Matterson's pistol spit, then I saw 
Gleazen drive the boat forward, saw her hesitate and 
swing round, lose way and go over as the next wave broke. 

Then we saw them swimming and heard their cries. 

As a mere matter of cold justice we should, I am con- 
vinced, have left that villainous pair, Matterson and Glea- 



THE FIGHT AT THE LANDING 301 

zen, to their fate. They had been ready enough to leave 
us to ours. Their whole career was sown with fraud, cru- 
elty, brazen effrontery, and downright dishonesty. But 
even Arnold and I could scarcely have borne to do that , 
for the trader was guiltless enough according to his lights, 
and Abe Guptil was struggling with them in the water. 

The girl, turning and looking back when she heard then 1 
shouts, spoke to the great negro in his own language. The 
canoe came about. Again we paused, waiting for a lull. 
Then we shot back on the crest of a wave, back down upon 
the overturned boat, and within gunshot of the flotilla of 
canoes that were spreading to receive us. 

As we passed the wallowing boat I leaned out and 
caught Gleazen's hands and drew him up to the canoe. 
The negro cried a hoarse warning, and the canoe herself 
almost went over ; but by as clever use of paddles as ever 
man achieved, the girl and the negro brought us up on an 
even keel, and Arnold and I lifted Gleazen aboard, half 
drowned, and gave a hand to Abe Guptil, who had made 
out to swim to the canoe. Of Matterson and the trader we 
saw no sign. 

Then Abe, himself but newly rescued, gave a lurch to 
starboard, and with a clutch at something just under 
water, was whipped, fiercely struggling to prevent it, clean 
overboard. 

We could neither stop nor turn ; either would have been 
suicide. Would we or would we not, we went past him and 
left him, and drove on in the wash of the breaking waves 
down upon the grim line of canoes. 

To them we must have seemed a visitation. When I sit 
alone in the dark I can see again in memory, very clearly, 
that white girl, her eyes flashing, that great, black Fantee, 
his bared teeth thrust out between his thick lips. The 
long breakers were roaring as they swept across the bar 



302 THE GEEAT QUEST 

and crashed at slow intervals behind us. In those seething 
waters the fiercest attack would have been futile ; the very 
tigers of the sea must have lain just beyond the wash of 
the surf, as did the war. To one who has never seen a 
Fantee on his native coast, the story that I tell of that 
wild canoe-ride may seem incredible. It was an appalling, 
horrifying thing to those of us who were forced passively 
to endure it, who a dozen tunes were flung to the very 
brink of death. And yet every word is true. Though I 
could scarce draw breath, so swiftly did we escape one 
danger only to meet another, the big black, trained from 
childhood to face every peril of the coast, with the white 
girl paddling in the bow, brought the canoe through the 
surf and shipped no more than a bucket of water. And 
then that negro and that slim girl turned in the surge, as 
coolly as if there were no enemy within a thousand miles, 
and started back, out again through the surf, to the Ad- 
venture. 

Were we thus, I thought, to lose Abe Guptil, whom but 
now we had rescued - - good old Abe Guptil, into whose 
home I had gone long since with the sad news that had 
forced him to embark with us on Gleazen's mad quest? 
The thunder of the seas was so loud that I could only wait 
- no words that I might utter could be heard a hand's- 
breadth away. 

For a moment the canoe hung motionless on the racing 
waters as a humming bird hangs in the air, then she shot 
ahead ; and up from the sea, directly in her path, came a 
tangle of bodies. Leaning out, Arnold and I laid hands on 
Abe and Matterson ; and while the negro held the canoe 
in place, the girl herself reached back and caught that ras- 
cal of a trader by the hair. Now tons of water broke 
around us and the canoe half filled. Now the big negro, 
by the might of his single paddle, drove us forward. The 



THE FIGHT AT THE LANDING 303 

wash of water caught us up and carried us on half a cable's 
length ; the negro again fairly lifted us by his great 
strength ; we went in safety over the crest of the next 
wave, then as we drew the last of the three into the canoe, 
we began to pitch in the heavy swell of the open sea. 

With our backs turned forever on the war, we paddled 
out to meet the brig. Our great quest had failed. We had 
left a trail of dead men, plundered goods, and a broken 
mission. But though all our hopes had gone wrong, though 
Gleazen had lost all that he sought, there was that in his 
face as he lay sick and miserable in the canoe which told 
me that he had other strings for his bow ; and when I 
looked up at the brig, I vowed to myself that I would de- 
fend my own property with as much zeal as I would have 
defended my uncle's. 

" See ! " Arnold whispered. "Yonder is a strange ship ! " 

I saw the sail, but I thought little of it at the tune. I had 
grown surprisingly hi many ways, but to this very day I 
have not acquired Arnold Lament's wonderful power to 
appraise seemingly insignificant events at their true value. 

I only thought of how glad I was to come at last to the 
shelter of the brig Adventure, how strangely glad I was to 
have brought off the girl from the mission. 

And when we came up under the side of the brig and 
saw honest Gideon North and all the others on deck look- 
ing down at us, the girl let her paddle slide into the water 
and bent her head on her hands and cried. 



VII 
THE LONG ROAD HOME 



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CHAPTER XXX 

THE CRUISER 

MATTERSON, Gleazen and the trader, Arnold, Abe and 
I, and the white girl and her great black servant, all were 
crowded into a frail dugout, which must long since have 
foundered, but for the marvelous skill of the big Fantee 
canoeman and the sureness and steadiness with which the 
girl had wielded her paddle. And now the girl sat with 
her face buried in her hands and her shoulders shaking as 
she sobbed ; and the big black, awed and frightened by the 
nearness and strangeness of the good Adventure, was look- 
ing up at the men who had crowded to the rail above him. 
As the brig came into the wind and lay beside the canoe, 
her yards sharply counter-braced, the long seas rose to 
the gunwale of our heavily laden and waterlogged little 
craft, and she slowly filled and settled. 

We should have perished there and then, within an 
arm's length of the solid planks that promised safety, had 
not Gideon North acted promptly. As the canoe set- 
tled and the water rose, I suddenly found myself swim- 
ming, and gave the bottom of the canoe a kick and 
plunged forward through the water to reach the girl and 
hold her up. At the same moment, indistinctly through 
the rush of the waves, I heard Captain North giving or- 
ders. Then I saw Abe beside me, swimming on the same 
errand, and heard someone spluttering and choking be- 
hind me ; then I came up beside the girl and, seizing one 
slender wrist, drew her arm over my shoulder and swam 
slowly by the brig. 

There was no excitement or clamor. The canoe, having 



308 THE GREAT QUEST 

emerged half full of water from those vast breakers on the 
bar, yet having made out to ride the seas well enough 
until the girl and the negro stopped paddling, had then 
quietly submerged and left us all at once struggling in the 
ocean. 

Blocks creaked above us and oars splashed, and sud- 
denly I felt the girl lifted from my shoulders ; then I my- 
self was dragged into a boat. Thus, after ten days on the 
continent of Africa, ten such days of suffering and danger 
that they were to live always as terrible nightmares in the 
memory of those of us who survived them, we came home 
to the swift vessel that had belonged to poor Seth Upham. 

To the story that we told, first one talking, then an- 
other, all of us excited and all of us, except Arnold La- 
mont, who never lost his calm precision and the girl who 
did not speak at all, fairly incoherent with emotion, 
Gideon North replied scarcely a word. 

"The black beasts!" Gleazen cried in a voice that 
shook with rage. " I 'd give my last chance of salvation to 
send a broadside among them yonder." 

"Ah, that's no great price," Matterson murmured 
sourly. "I'd give more than that -- many times more, 
my friend. Think you, Captain North, that a man of 
spirit would soon forget or forgive such a token as this?" 
And he pointed at the raw wound the spear had left on 
his face. 

Gleazen stepped close beside him. "Hm! It's slough- 
ing," he said. 

"It's hot and it throbs like the devil," Matterson re- 
plied. 

Arnold also came over to Matterson and looked at the 
wound. 

"It needs attention," he commented. "It certainly is 
not healing as it should." 



THE CRUISER 309 

Matterson raised his brows angrily. "Let it be," he 
returned. 

With a slight lift of his head, Arnold faced about and 
walked slowly away. 

As Matterson angrily glared from one of us to another, 
the group separated and, turning, I saw our guest standing 
silently apart. 

"Captain North," I said slowly, "this lady --" 

He did not wait for me to finish. 

"I beg your pardon, ma'am," he cried. "You shall 
have my own stateroom. I should have spoken before, 
but that sail troubles me." 

Thereupon others turned to study the sail, which was 
bearing down on us, although still some miles away ; but 
I continued to watch the guest whose presence there in the 
Adventure seemed so strange as almost to savor of magic, 
as she tried to thank Gideon North. 

"Don't say a word," he cried. "Not a word ! Remem- 
ber this : I 've a wife and daughters of my own, and I wish 
they were on board to make things comfortable for you. 
But all we can do, I 'm afraid, is give you a chance to make 
yourself comfortable. Our cabin boy 's gone. He went 
ashore with those damnable villains yonder and never 
came back." 

"A little boy?" she suddenly asked. 

"Aye." 

"A wicked little rascal?" A strangely roguish light 
flashed across her face and she smiled as if in spite of her- 
self. 

Gideon North's chuckle grew into a wide grin. " Ma'am, 
that 's Willie MacDougald to a T. But what do you know 
of him?" 

"He ran away from them, and came to us when they 
had gone up-river, and said that they were going to beat 



310 THE GREAT QUEST 

him, and told a terrible story of the wrongs he had suf- 
fered. But he could not abide our ways any more than 
we his, such a tune as he led us with his swearing and 
thieving and lying ! and when a boat from the Ameri- 
can cruiser came ashore while you were gone, he told the 
men such a story of your search for slaves and of all your 
gear and goods, they vowed to capture you if they lay off 
the coast a year and a day, and they laughed at his 
wretched oaths and made much of him and took him on 
board. And then - - then - It seemed the thought of 
all that had happened since swept upon her in a wave 
almost as overwhelming as one of those breakers through 
which we had fought our way ; for she suddenly turned 
white and tried to fight back her tears, and for the tune 
could speak no more. 

"Come, Joe, look alive now!" Captain North roared, 
trying to mask his kind heart and lively emotions with a 
pretense of fierceness. "Fetch hot water from the galley 
to my stateroom ! Have the cook bring aft hot coffee and 
a square meal. I'll take you below myself, ma'am, to 
show you the way, and I now order you to help yourself 
to all you need for comfort. Off with you, Joe !" 

All this time the cook had been gaping from the galley 
door at what had been going on aft ; and so eager was he 
to get a nearer view of the young lady who had come mys- 
teriously out with us from the river, and to gather up new 
threads of the extraordinary story Abe Guptil had told 
forward, that, although he was the laziest Yankee who 
ever commanded a galley stove, he set out at a dead run 
aft, with a coffee-pot in one hand and a pail of hot water, 
which at every moment threatened to spill and scald him, 
in the other. 

Captain North at once came on deck again and found 
the rest of us still intent on the approaching ship, which 



THE CRUISER 311 

with all her canvas spread was bearing down upon us like 
a race-horse. The cook, on his way forward, paused to 
survey her. The watch, now glancing anxiously aft, now 
studying the stranger, was standing by for whatever or- 
ders should be forthcoming. 

"Sir," said Arnold, "she means trouble.'' 

"We've waited too long already," Captain North re- 
plied. Raising the trumpet he cried, "Call up all hands, 
there, Mr. Severance!" 

A moment later he looked keenly at Matterson. "Mr. 
Matterson," he said, "you are exhausted." 

"I am a little peaked," Matterson said thoughtfully, 
"a little peaked, but not exhausted." 

"Will you take your station, sir?" 

"I will." Still in his wet clothes and cautiously touch- 
ing his inflamed wound, Matterson went forward to the 
forecastle. There was something soldierly in his prompt- 
ness. It was so evident that his strength was scarcely 
equal to his task, that for his hardihood, little as I liked 
him, I freely gave him credit. 

"Mr. Gleazen," said Captain North, "I am afraid we 
must show her our heels." 

"If I could lay my hands on the lean neck of William 
MacDougald," Gleazen growled, "I'd wring his head 
clean off." 

"She unquestionably is bearing down on us." 

"She is." 

"And she knows - 

"She knows," cried Gleazen, "all that Willie Mac- 
Dougald can tell her of casks and farina and shackles and 
lumber for extra decks." 

"And of false papers with which you so carefully pro- 
vided yourself?' 1 

Gideon North's face all this time was as sober as a 



312 THE GREAT QUEST 

judge's, but now I saw that he was deliberately torment- 
ing Gleazen with the various preparations the man had 
made for that unholy traffic in slaves. 

Although Gleazen himself by now perceived it, his 
wrath turned on our erstwhile cabin boy rather than on 
Gideon North. He swore vilely. "Aye," he cried, "we 
must run run or hang. And all for the word of a pry- 
ing, cursing, eavesdropping young rooster that I might 
have wrung the neck of, any day for months past. If ever 
I lay hands on his ape's throat - 

"I gather, sir," Captain North dryly interposed, 
"you'll use him harshly." 

With that he turned his back on Gleazen and raised his 
trumpet : 

"Lay aloft and loose the main to'g 'Pants '1. - - Man the 
to'g'lant sheets and halyards. - - Some of you men, there, 
stand by the clewl'nes and braces." For a moment he 
stood, trumpet at lips, watching every motion of the men ; 
then, as those on the yards loosened the sail, he thun- 
dered, "Let fall ! - - Lay in ! - - Sheet home ! " Then, 
"Hoist away ! - - Belay the halyards !" 

As we crowded on sail, the brig leaned before the wind, 
and for a time we hoped that we were gaining on the 
stranger ; but our hopes were soon dispelled. 

It seemed queer to run from our own countrymen, but 
run we did all that afternoon, through the bluest of blue 
seas, with white clouds flying overhead and low lands on 
the horizon. 

In another sense I could not help feeling that Gideon 
North himself showed quite too little anxiety about the 
outcome of the race. Yet, as time passed, even his face 
grew more serious, and all that afternoon, as we braced 
the yards and so made or shortened sail as best to main- 
tain our speed at every change of wind, an anxious group 



THE CRUISER 313 

watched from the quarter-deck of the Adventure the swift 
vessel that stood after us and slowly gained on us, with 
her canvas spread till she looked on the blue sea for all the 
world like a silver cloud racing in the blue sky. 

The nearer she came, the graver grew the faces about 
me ; for, if the full penalty of the law was exacted, to be 
convicted as a slaver in those days was to be hanged, and 
in all the world there was no place where a vessel and her 
men were so sure to be suspected of slaving as in the very 
waters where we were then sailing. The track of vessels 
outward bound from America to Good Hope and the Far 
East ran in general from somewhere about the Cape Verde 
Islands to the southeastern coast of Brazil ; that of vessels 
homeward bound, from Good Hope northwest past St. 
Helena and across the Equator. Thus the western coast 
of Africa formed, with those two lines that vessels followed, 
a rough triangle ; and looking toward the apex, where the 
two converged, it served as the base. In that triangle of 
seas, as blue as sapphire and as clear, occurred horrors 
such as all human history elsewhere can scarcely equal. 
There a slaver would leave the lanes of commerce, run up 
to the coast one night, and be gone the next with a cargo 
of " ebony" under her hatches, to mingle with the ships 
inward or outward bound ; and there the cruisers hunted. 

The faces of the crew were sober as the man-of-war, 
cracking on every stitch of canvas, came slowly up to us 
at the end of the afternoon. We all knew then that even 
to keep a safe lead until sunset, it would do us precious 
little good ; for in a clear starlight night our pursuer could 
follow us almost as well as by day. Arnold Lament was 
inscrutable ; Gideon North was gravely silent ; Matterson 
and Gleazen were angry and sullen ; and the luckless 
trader, who had escaped from his ambushed caravan only 
to find himself in a doomed vessel, was yellow with fear. 



314 THE GREAT QUEST 

There was not a man, forward or aft, who did not know 
the incalculable stakes for which we were racing. Pedro 
with his monkey on and off his shoulder as he worked, 
Abe Guptil with his nervous, eager step, and all the others, 
each showing the strain after his own manner, leaped to 
the ropes at the word of command or fidgeted about the 
decks in the occasional moments of inaction. 

Of our passenger I had thought often and with ever 
keener anxiety. How the fast-approaching end of our race 
would affect her future I could only guess, and really I was 
more anxious for her than for myself. But from the mo- 
ment she went below neither I nor any of the others saw 
sign or glimpse of her, until, just at sunset, I ran thither 
to fetch the leather-bound spyglass whose lower power 
and greater illumination lent itself best to night work. 

As I clattered down the companionway, I heard some- 
one dart out of the cabin. But when I entered, the girl, as 
if she had been waiting to see who it was, came back 
again, so eager for news from above that she could no 
longer remain in hiding. 

"Tell me, sir," she said, lifting her head proudly, "has 
the cruiser overhauled us yet?" 

"Not yet," I replied. 

She stood as if waiting for whatever else I had to say ; 
but my tongue for the moment was tied. 

" If they do ? " she said as if to question me. 

"Heaven help us !" 

"Come," she cried with some asperity, "don't stand 
there staring like a gaby ! Tell me everything. Have not 
I a right to know?' 

"If you wish," I replied, stung by the scorn in her voice. 
"The chances are that, if we are caught, some of us will 
hang. Which of us and how many, is a debatable question." 

She thought it over calmly. "That is probably true. I 



THE CRUISER 315 

think, however, that I shall have something to say about 
which ones will hang." 

That was a phase of the matter which had not occurred 
to me. It gave me a good deal of relief, until I met her 
eyes regarding me still scornfully, and realized what an 
exhibition of myself I was making. I had been assertive 
enough hitherto, and I had not lacked confidence where 
females were concerned ; I remembered well the one who 
so long before had come into my uncle's store in Topham, 
and how Arnold had smiled at the scorn that I had ac- 
corded her. But this young lady somehow was different. 
She had a fine, quiet dignity that seemed always to ap- 
praise me with cool precision. She had shown, once at 
least, a flash of humor that indicated how lightly, in less 
tragic circumstances, she could take light things.; Now and 
then she had dealt a keen thrust that cut me by its truth. 

And yet she treated me kindly enough, too. She had 
seemed almost glad to have me at her side when we ran 
together from the mission. 

" Mistress- ' I began ; then stopped and clumsily stam- 
mered, "I I don't know your name." 

11 My name?" With the hint of a smile, but with that 
fine dignity which made me feel my awkwardness many 
times over, she said, "I am Faith Parmenter." 

Another pause followed, which embarrassed me still 
more; then, awkwardly, I reached for the night glass. 
Things were not happening at all as I had dreamed. 

"You 're long enough finding that glass," Captain North 
growled when I handed it to him, "Aye, and red in the 
face, too." 

I was thankful indeed that the approach of the ship, 
which had sailed so swiftly as to overhaul even our Balti- 
more brig, gave him other things to think about. 

By now the race was almost over. I heard Gleazen 



316 THE GREAT QUEST 

talking of bail - - of judges - - of bribes. I saw the man 
Pedro twitching his fingers at his throat. I saw Arnold 
Lamont and Gideon North watching the stranger in- 
tently, minute after minute. Taking in our studding-sails 
and royals, we braced sharp by the wind with our head to 
westward. At that our pursuer, which had come up al- 
most abreast of us but a mile away, followed our example, 
sail for sail and point for point, whereupon we hauled up 
our courses, took in topgallant sails and jib, and tacked. 

When the stranger followed our manoeuvre, but with 
the same sail that she had been carrying, she came near 
enough for us to see that her lower-deck ports were triced 
up. When we tacked offshore again, she hauled up her 
mizzen staysail and stood for us ; and fifteen minutes 
later she hauled her jib down, braced her headsails to the 
mast, and rounded to about half a cable's length to the 
windward of us on our weather quarter. We had already 
heard the roll of drums beating the men to their stations, 
and now Captain North, his glass leveled at her in the 
half light, cried gloomily :- 

"Aye, the tompions are out of her guns already !" 

"Ship ahoy !" came the deep hail. "What ship is that?" 

"Train your guns, Captain North!" Gleazen cried 
fiercely; "train your guns!" 

"Mr. Gleazen," Gideon North retorted, with a stern 
smile, "with one broadside she can blow us into splinters. 
Our shot would no more than rattle on her planks." 

"Ahoy there !" the deep voice roared, now angrily. 

"The brig Adventure from Boston, bound on a legiti- 
mate trading voyage to the Guinea coast," Captain North 
replied. "Where are you from?' 

To his question they returned no answer. The curt order 
that the speaking-trumpet sent out to us was : 

"Stand by! We're sending a boat aboard." 



THE CRUISER 317 

We were caught by a cruiser, and there was evidence 
below that would send us, guilty and guiltless alike, to 
the very gallows if the courts should impose on us the 
extreme penalty. 

Up to this point we had not been certain of the nation- 
ality of our pursuers. Too often flags were used to suit 
the purpose of the moment. But there was now no doubt 
that the uniforms in the boat were those of our own 
countrymen. 

With long, hasty strides, Gleazen crossed the deck to the 
captain. In his face defiance and despair were strangely 
mingled. He was nervously working his hands. "Quick 
now," he cried. "Haul down the flag, Captain North. 
Break out the red and yellow. Throw over the papers. 
Over with them, quick !" 

"I am not sure I wish to change my registry," Gideon 
North quietly returned. 

Gleazen swore furiously. "You'll hang with the rest of 
us," he cried. 

"I think, sir, that I can prove my innocence." 

"The casks and shackles will knot the rope round your 
stiff neck. Aye, Captain North, you '11 have a merry time 
of it, twitching your toes against the sunrise." 

In fury Gleazen spun on his heel. For once, as his teeth 
pulled shreds of skin from his lips, the man was stark 
white. 

We heard the creak of blocks as the ship lowered her 
boat, heard the splash of oars as the boat came forging 
toward us, saw in the stern the bright bars of a lieutenant's 
uniform. 

There was not one of us who did not feel keenly the 
suspense. So surely as the boat came aboard, just so 
surely would the searchers, primed for their task, no doubt, 
by that vengeful little wretch, MacDougald, find whatever 



318 THE GREAT QUEST 

damning evidence was stowed in the hold ; and I was by 
no means certain that, in the cold light of open court, we 
who had fought against every suggestion of illegal traf- 
fic could prove our innocence. But to Gleazen and Mat- 
terson the boat promised more than search and seizure. 
Whether or not the rest of us effected our acquittal, for 
those two a long term in prison was the least that they 
could expect, and the alternative caused even Gleazen's 
nonchalance to fail him. It is one thing, and a very cred- 
itable thing, to face without fear the prospect of an honest 
death in a fair fight ; it is quite another, calmly to antici- 
pate hanging. 

Still Gleazen stood there in the fleeting twilight, open- 
ing and closing his hands in indecision. Still Captain 
North waited with folded arms, determined at any cost to 
have the truth and the truth only told on board his brig. 

The brig slowly rose, and fell, and rose, on the long seas. 
The men stood singly and in little groups, waiting, breath- 
less with apprehension, for whatever was to happen. A 
cable's length away, the cruising man-of-war, her ports 
triced up, her guns run out and trained, rolled on the long 
seas in time with the brig. We had thought, when we es- 
caped from the enfolding attack of the African war, that 
all danger was over. Now, it seemed, we must face a new 
danger, which menaced not only our lives, but our honor. 

The boat now lay bumping under the gangway. 

"Come, pass us a line !" the lieutenant cried. 

Suddenly Gleazen woke from his indecision. Stepping 
boldly to the rail, he called down in his big, gruff, asser- 
tive voice : 

"You men had better not come on board. Mind you, 
I've given you fair warning." 

"What's that you're saying?" 

"You better not come on board. We've got four cases 



THE CRUISER 319 

of smallpox already, and two more that I think are com- 
ing down." 

The men in the boat instantly shoved off, and a dozen 
feet away sat talking in low voices. Obviously they were 
undecided what to do. 

To most of us Gleazen's cool, authoritative statement, 
that the most dread plague of the African coast, the terror 
alike of traders, cruisers, and slavers, had appeared among 
us a downright lie was so amazing that we scarcely 
knew what to make of it. I must confess that, little as I 
liked the means that he took, I was well pleased at the 
prospect of his gaining his end. But Gideon North, as he 
had been prompt to shatter at the start Gleazen's first 
attempt at fraud, promptly and unexpectedly thrust his 
oar into this one. 

"That, gentlemen, is not so," he called down to the 
boat. "We have as clean a bill of health as any ship in 
the service." 

"Come, come, now," cried the young officer. "What's 
all this?" 

"I'm telling you the truth, and I'm master of this 
brig." 

With his hands at his mouth Gleazen, half-pretending 
to whisper, called, "We 're humoring him. He won't admit 
he has it. But what I 've told you is God's honest truth." 

Captain North started as if about to speak, then seemed 
to think better of it. Folding his arms, he let the matter 
stand 

I think he, as much as any of the rest of us, was relieved 
when the boat, after hesitating a long time, during which 
we suffered keenest anxiety, made about and returned to 
the ship. Still we dared not breathe easily, lest the com- 
manding officer, refusing to accept his subordinate's re- 
port, order a search at all costs. But five minutes later it 



320 THE GREAT QUEST 

appeared that, whatever their suspicions may have been, 
they had no intention of running needless risks, for they 
came about and made off up the coast. 

Small wonder that they acted thus ! The bravest of cap- 
tains must have stopped three times to think before order- 
ing his men to dare that terrible disease, the worst scourge 
of those seas, the terror alike of slavers and cruisers, on 
the bare word of such as Willie MacDougald that he would 
find contraband. 

I have often wondered whether Willie MacDougald was 
on board the ship, and whether he was responsible for the 
chase. In the light of all that I heard, I rather think he 
was, although none of us who searched the decks of the 
other vessel caught so much as a glimpse of him. But if so, 
it must have disappointed him deeply that his revenge 
failed to reach Cornelius Gleazen and Pedro's monkey ; 
and seeing the monkey, which had eluded its owner and 
strayed aft, perched in the rigging and malevolently eye- 
ing Gleazen himself, I laughed aloud. 

Then I saw that it was no time for laughing, for Gleazen 
and Gideon North were standing grimly face to face, and 
Arnold and Matterson and the trader were gathering close 
around them. 

Out of the rumble of angry voices, one came to me 
more distinctly than any of the others : - 

"Mr. Gleazen, it is time that we settled this question 
once and for all. If you will come below with me, we can 
reach, I am sure, a decision that will be best for all of us 
in the Adventure." 

It was Captain North who spoke. As he moved toward 
the companionway, I saw that Arnold Lament was beck- 
oning to me. 



CHAPTER XXXI 

A PASSAGE AT ARMS 

ACROSS the cabin table was spread the big, inaccurate 
chart of the west coast of Africa, on which Captain North 
had penciled the rat-infested island and the river. 

Seeing it now for the first time since he had returned to 
the brig, Gleazen planted one finger on the picture of the 
spot where we had found the wrecked ship with the 
bones of the drowned slaves still chained to her timbers. 
"Pfaw !" he growled. "If only she was afloat ! There was 
a ship for you ! Given her at sea again, handsome and 
handy, two good men would never 'a' lost their lives. 
Given that she was not beyond repair, and we might yet 
kedge her off and plank her and caulk her and rig her 
anew." 

"She 's done," said Matterson languidly. "Forget her." 
He laid his head on the table and closed his eyes. 

"Molly ! " There was a new note of concern in Gleazen's 
voice. He leaned over and shook the man. 

"Let me be," said Matterson. 

"Gentlemen," Gideon North interposed, "we are dodg- 
ing the issue." 

"Well ? " Gleazen angrily raised his head. "There is no 
issue. We'll sail for the Rio Pongo, lay off and on till the 
first dark night, then take the cargo that a friend of ours 
will have ready. Thence, Captain North, we'll sail for 
Cuba. I'll give the orders now, and you'll carry them out." 

"How long," I cried hotly, "have you been giving or- 
ders onboard this vessel?" 

He turned and glared at me. "If you want facts, Joe, 



322 THE GREAT QUEST 

I '11 give them to you : I 've been giving orders aboard this 
vessel from the day we sailed from Boston until now 
aye, and seeing that they were obeyed, too, you young 
cub. But if you w r ant fancies, such as are suitable for the 
young, I 've owned the brig only since Seth Upham went 
mad and got himself killed." 

"You own the brig?" 

"Yes, I own the brig." 

"You lie!" 

That he merely laughed, enraged me more than if he 
had hit me. 

"You He!" I repeated. 

"Next," said he, "you'll be telling me that Seth Up- 
ham owned her." 

"That I will, indeed, and it is a small part of what I'll 
be telling you." 

"Well, he did n't." 

The man's effrontery left me without words to retort. 

"He didn't," Gleazen said again. "Him and I went 
into this deal share alike. Half to him and half to me and 
my partners. Ain't he dead? Well, then I keep my half 
and Molly, here, who is all the partner I 've got left now, 
gets the other half. Ain't that plain? Of course it is. It 
would be plain enough if we 'd got clear with the fortune 
that was ours by rights. And because we lost the fortune, 
it 's all the plainer that we ought to get something for our 
trouble." 

"But, Mr. Gleazen," Arnold interposed, "supposing 
there were a grain of truth in what you say, which 
there is n't, the rest of us, Joe and Abe and I, still have 
a sixth part in it all." 

"That," cried Matterson, bursting into the contro- 
versy before Gleazen could find words to meet this new 
argument, "that is stuff. The sixth part was to come out 



A PASSAGE AT ARMS 323 

of Seth Upham's lay ; and Seth Upham is dead, so he gets 
no lay. Therefore you get not a bit more than the wages 
you signed on for ; and if you signed on for no wages, you 
get nothing." 

"I can promise you, Matterson," Gideon North said 
with a smile, "that nothing of that kind goes down under 
my command." 

"Then you're likely not to keep your command." 

The trader, glancing shrewdly from one to another, had 
edged over beside Gleazen, but now Arnold spoke, as ever, 
calmly and precisely : 

"Let all that go. About that we do not as yet care. It 
is a matter to be argued when the time comes. But - 
what will you take on board for a cargo at Rio Pongo?" 

As if Arnold's question implied permission for him also 
to have his say, the trader spread both hands in a gesture 
of despair at such ignorance as it manifested. 

" ' What weel you get ? ' Ah, me " 

"Yes, wiiat will you get?" Arnold reiterated, quietly 
smiling at the irony of his question. 

"We'll get a cargo all right when we get there," Gleazen 
asserted. "We'll let it go at that. Captain North, bring 
the brig about on a course, say, of approximately west by 
north." He bent over the chart. "That will be about 
right. As for the wind - 

"Captain North," said I, "you will do nothing of the 
kind. Unless we can get an honest cargo, you will head 
straight back to Boston and sell the Adventure for what 
she'll bring." 

'" What weel you get? ' ' the still amazed trader cried 
again. "You weel get " 

"As for you, Joe, ' Gleazen momentarily drowned 
out the man's voice, "you'll get into trouble if you're 
not careful." 



324 THE GREAT QUEST 

"For you, Mr. Gleazen, I don't care the snap of my 
finger. I'll have my property handled in the way I 
choose." 

For a moment Gleazen glared at me in angry silence, 
and in that moment, the trader found opportunity to 
finish his sentence, winch he did with an air of such pleas- 
ure in the tidings he gave, and all the time so completely 
unconscious of the subtler undercurrents of our quarrel, 
that to an unprejudiced observer it would have been ludi- 
crous in the extreme. 

"You weel get -- niggers ! Such prime, stout, strong 
niggers ! It ees a pleasure always to buy niggers at Rio 
Pongo. Such barracoons ! Such niggers !" 

Although for a long tune we had very well known the 
hidden real object of Gleazen's return to Topham and of 
the mad quest on which he had led us, this was the first 
time that anyone had frankly put it into so many words. 
The anger and defiance with which our two parties eyed 
each other seemed moment by moment to grow more 
intense. 

"Well, there's no need to look so glum about it," said 
Gleazen at last. "Half the deacons in New England live 
on the proceeds of rum and notions, and they know well 
enough what trade their goods are sold in. You may talk 
all you will of the gospel ; they take their dollars, when 
their ships come home. Your Englishman may talk of his 
cruisers on the coast and his laws that Parliament made 
for him ; but w r hen the bills come back on London for his 
Birmingham muskets and Liverpool lead and Manchester 
cotton, he don't cry bad money and turn 'em down. Why, 
then, should we ? Where there 's niggers, there '11 be slaves. 
It's in the blood of them." 

"Be that as it may," I retorted, "not a slave shall board 
this vessel." 



A PASSAGE AT ARMS 325 



1 1 



It appears," Gleazen slowly returned, "that this brig, 
which is a small craft at best, is not big enough for both 
of us." 

"Not if you think you can give yourself the airs of an 
owner." 

" Hear that, you ! ' Airs of an owner ! ' Well, I am owner. 
I think - - yes, I will give you a greater honor than you 
deserve." Suddenly he leaned over and roared at me, 
"Get down on your knees and apologize, or, so help me, 
I'll strike you dead on the spot." 

Quicker than a flash I reached out and slapped him on 
the face - - and as I did so I remembered the time when 
O'Hara had slapped Seth Upham. 

With his hand half drawn back as if to seize a chair for 
a cudgel, he stopped, smiled, spun round and reached for 
the pair of swords on the bulkhead. Extending the two 
hilts, he smiled and said, "I shall take pleasure in run- 
ning you through, my friend." 

"Not so fast !" It was Arnold who spoke. "I, sir, will 
take first a turn at the swords with you." 

"In your turn, Mr. Lament," Gleazen retorted with an 
exaggerated bow. "Meanwhile, if you please, you may 
act as second to Mr. Woods." 

"Come, enough of this nonsense," cried honest Gideon 
North, "or I'll clap you both into irons. Dueling aboard 
my vessel, indeed !" He looked appraisingly from one of 
us to the other. 

"I will fight him," I coolly replied. 

"You will, will you?" 

"I will." 

Soberly Gideon North looked me in the eye. Already 
Gleazen, Matterson, Arnold, and the others were moving 
toward the companionway. This happened, you must re- 
member, in '27 ; dueling was not regarded then as it is now. 



32G THE GREAT QUEST 

"I am afraid, my boy, it will not be a fair fight." 

"It will be fair enough," I replied. 

Rising, Captain North brought out his medicine chest. 

I followed the others on deck, as if the little world in 
which I was moving were a world of unreality. All that I 
knew of swordsmanship, I had learned from Cornelius 
Gleazen himself ; and though I felt that at the end of 
our lessons I had learned enough to give him a hard fight, it 
was quite another matter to cross swords that carried no 
buttons, and to believe that one of us was to die. 

There was only starlight on deck, and Captain North 
stepped briskly forward to Arnold and Matterson, who 
were standing together by a clear space that they had 
paced off. 

"Gentlemen," said he, "if they were to wait until 
morning - 

'There would be more light, to be sure," Arnold re- 
turned, "but the disadvantage is common to both." 

Gleazen grumbled something far down in his throat, 
and I cried out that I would fight him then as well as any 
time. 

"If a couple of lanterns were slung from the rigging," 
Matterson suggested. He moved slowly and now and 
then touched the hot skin around his wound ; but al- 
though it still troubled him, he appeared to be gaining 
strength. 

The words were scarcely out of his mouth when two men 
came running aft in response to Captain North's sharp 
order. Lanterns were lighted and slung, and Cornelius 
Gleazen and I, with sword in hand, faced each other across 
a length of clean white deck. 

It was a long way from friendly combat on the village 
green at Topham to the bout I now waited to begin, and 
both for Cornelius Gleazen and for myself the intervening 



A PASSAGE AT ARMS 327 

months had piled up a formidable score to be settled. 
Waiting in silence for our seconds, Arnold and Matterson, 
to clear away some coiled ropes, we watched each other 
with a bitter hate that had been growing on his part, I 
am convinced, since the days when first he had seen me 
working in my uncle's store, and on mine, certainly, ever 
since I had become aware of the growing conviction that 
the friendship he had so loudly professed for me was abso- 
lutely insincere. 

He had cheated, robbed, browbeaten, and, to all prac- 
tical ends, killed, my uncle. He stood there now, scheming 
by every means in his power to kill and rob me in my 
turn. And if he succeeded ! - - 1 thought of the girl to 
whom Gideon North had given up his stateroom. How 
much did she know of all that was going forward ? There 
had been only one door between her and the quarrel in 
the cabin. And what fate would be left for her, if I should 
fall - - if Gleazen should override Gideon North and Ar- 
nold Lamont? Truly, I thought, I must fight my best. 

"And, sir," I heard Arnold saying, "if you are able to 
bear arms after your bout with Mr. Woods, it is to be my 
turn and you shall so favor me." 

"That I will," Gleazen replied with a wry smile. 

I know truly, although I do not understand the reason 
for it, that after an unusually dramatic experience it is 
likely to be some trifling, irrelevant little thing that one 
remembers most vividly. And singularly enough it is a 
tiny patch on Arnold's coat that I now most clearly recall 
of all that happened then. I noticed it for the first tune 
when Arnold was speaking ; I do not remember that I ever 
noticed it again. Yet to this day I can see it as clearly as 
if I had only to turn my head to find it once more before 
my eyes, slightly darker than the body of the coat and 
sewed on with small neat stitches. 



328 THE GREAT QUEST 

Now Arnold was beside me. "Steady your blade, my 
boy," he said. "Fence lightly and cautiously." 

The two swords circled, flashing in the lantern-light, 
and we came on guard in a duel such as few men have 
fought. The rolling deck at best gave us unsteady footing. 
As the lantern swung, the shadows changed in a way that 
was most confusing. Now we were all but in darkness; 
now the light was fairly in our eyes. 

This, I thought, can never be the old Neil Gleazen with 
whom I used to fence. He was craftier, warier, more cau- 
tious now than I had ever seen him, and I took a lesson 
from him and restrained the impetuousness of the attack 
I should have launched had foils been our weapons. Now 
he lunged out like a flash, and all but came in past my 
guard. I instantly replied by a riposte, but failed to catch 
him napping. Again he lunged and yet again, and for the 
third time I succeeded in parrying, but all to no purpose 
so far as opening the way for a counter-attack was con- 
cerned. 

Now I saw the spectators only as black shadows stand- 
ing just out of the range of my vision. With every sense I 
was alert to parry and lunge. Now it seemed very dark 
except for the light of the lanterns, although before we 
began to fence, the starlight had seemed uncommonly 
bright and clear. The whole world appeared to grow dark 
around me as I fought, until only Cornelius Gleazen was 
to be seen, as if in the heart of a light cloud. Now I all 
but eluded his guard. Now I drew blood from his arm - 
I was convinced of it. I pressed him closer and closer and 
got new confidence from seeing that he was breathing 
harder than I. 

For a moment, it is a thing that happens when one 
has concentrated his whole attention on a certain object 
for so long a time that at last it inevitably wavers, for 



A PASSAGE AT ARMS 329 

a moment I was aware of those around me as well as of the 
man in front of me. I even heard their hard breathing, 
their whispered encouragement. I saw that Matterson was 
standing on my right, midway between me and Gleazen. 
I saw a sudden opening, and thrusting out my arm, drove 
my blade for it with all the speed and strength of my 
body. That thrust, too, drew blood ; there was no doubt 
of it, for Gleazen gave a quick gasp and let his guard fall. 
Victory was mine ; I had beaten him. My heart leaped, 
and lifting my sword-hand to turn off his blade, I at- 
tempted a reprise. I knew by the frantic jerk of Gleazen's 
guard that he was aware that I had beaten him. I was 
absolutely sure of myself. But when I attempted to spring 
back and launch the doubled attack something held my 
foot. 

I gave a quick jerk, literally my foot was held, I 
lost my balance and all but went over. Then I felt a burn- 
ing in the back of my shoulder and sat down on deck with 
the feeling that the lanterns were now expanding into 
strange wide circles of light, now concentrating into tiny 
coals of fire. 

First I knew that Gideon North was bending over me 
with his medicine chest; then I took a big swallow of 
brandy and had hard work to keep from choking over it ; 
then I felt cool hands, so firm and small that I knew they 
could belong to only one person in the Adventure ; thnn 
I saw Arnold Lament, sword in hand, facing Cornelius 
Gleazen. 

Now why, I wondered, had I been unable to withdraw 
my foot. Matterson had been all but in my way. He must 
have thrust out his own foot ! 

"Arnold," I cried incoherently, " beware of Matterson ! 
He tripped me !" 

Arnold looked down at me and smiled and nodded. 



330 THE GEEAT QUEST 

"Sir," I heard him saying, as if miles away, "you have 
beaten a man years younger than yourself by a foul and 
treacherous trick. I shall kill you." 

"Kill me?" Gleazen arrogantly roared. "It would take 
a swordsman to do it." 

To that Arnold replied in a foreign tongue, which even 
then I knew must be Spanish. I was no competent witness 
of what was taking place ; but cloudy though my mind 
was, I did not fail to see that Arnold's taunt struck home, 
for both Gleazen and Matterson angrily swore. 

"In Spanish, eh?" Gleazen sneered. "So this is the 
leaky spigot ! No more tales, my fine fellow, shall trickle 
out through your round mouth, once I have measured 
your vitals with cold steel." 

Into my spinning brain there now came a sudden mem- 
ory of my bout with Arnold long, long ago, when I had 
gone at him just as arrogantly as ever Neil Gleazen was 
doing now. I tried to cry out again and could not. I 
laughed, which was all my strength permitted, and wea- 
rily leaned back, and through eyes that would almost 
close in spite of me, saw Arnold advance under the 
swinging lantern so swiftly that his sword was like a 
beam of light flashed by a mirror. 

His blade sped through Gleazen's guard : Gleazen 
dropped his sword, staggered, and fell with a crash. 

I heard Arnold say, "Sir, I am more clumsy than I 
knew. The rolling deck has saved your miserable life, 
since I cannot kill a wounded man. But if my hand were 
in practice, no ship that ever rolled would have turned 
that thrust." 

Then a great uproar ensued, and I knew nothing more 
until I opened my eyes in the cabin, where a hot argu- 
ment was evidently in progress, since oaths were bandied 
back and forth and there were hard words on all sides. 



A PASSAGE AT ARMS 331 

"As representatives of Josiah Woods, who owns this 
brig," I heard Arnold say, "Gideon North and I will not 
permit you, sir, or any other man, to ship such a cargo." 

The reply I did not understand, but I again heard Ar- 
nold's voice, hot with anger. 

"We will not sail again to that den of pirates and slav- 
ers and the iniquitous of all the nations of the world, 
Havana. If you do not wish to go to Boston, ' he hesi- 
tated, "we will use you better than you deserve. For 
a profitable voyage, we might compromise, say, on South 
America." 

Of what followed I have no memory, for I was weaker 
than I realized, from loss of blood. The cabin went white 
before my eyes. The voices all dwindled away to remote 
threads of sound. I seemed to feel myself sway with the 
motion of the ship, and opened my eyes again and saw 
that I was being carried. Then I once more felt cool hands 
on my forehead, and leaning back, seemed to sink into end- 
less space. I forgot Topham and all that had happened 
there ; I forgot Africa and every event of our ill-fated 
venture ; I even forgot the brig and the duel, and I almost 
forgot my own identity. But as I existed in a sort of dream- 
land or fairyland somewhere between waking and sleep- 
ing, I did not forget the girl who had come with me out of 
Africa ; and even when I could not remember my own 
name, I would find myself struggling in a curiously de- 
tached way to connect the name Faith, which persisted 
in my memory, with a personality that likewise persisted, 
yet that seemed a thing apart from all the world and not 
even to be given a name. 



CHAPTER XXXII 
WESTWARD BOUND 

AT the time I did not know whether it was two days or 
ten that I lay in that borderland of consciousness. But as 
I emerged from it into a clearer, more real world, I saw 
now the girl, now Arnold, now Gideon North, passing be- 
fore me and sometimes pausing by my berth. One day I 
found myself eating broth that someone was feeding to 
me. The next, I saw that the girl was my nurse. The next, 
I asked questions, but so weakly that I could no more 
than murmur a faint protest when she smiled and turned 
away without answering. 

So it went until a time when my voice was stronger and 
I would not be put off again. Seizing her sleeve and feebly 
holding it, I cried as stoutly as I was able, "Tell me - 
tell me where we are and all that has happened." 

What she saw through the open port, I could only 
guess ; if it was possible to judge by her face, she saw more 
than mere sea and sky, with perhaps a wandering sea 
bird; but she turned and quietly said, "We are at sea, 
now, and all is going well, and when you are stronger, I '11 
tell you more." 

"Tell me now !" I demanded. 

I would have said more, but I felt that my voice was 
failing and I did not wish her to perceive it. 

She hesitated, then impulsively turned. 

"Just this : you are getting well fast, and he is getting 
well slowly. We have gone from the coast and the Gulf 
of Guinea, and are off for South America." 

Then she went away and left me, and I was troubled by 



WESTWARD BOUND 333 

the sadness of her face, although she had had enough, 
heaven knew ! to make her sad. 

"So," I thought, "we have really abandoned the trade 
at last ! And so Arnold brought down Gleazen ! And 
what of the trader and Pedro ? And what are our prospects 
of profit from a voyage to South America? And what of 
Seth Upham and 

Then it all came back to me, a thousand memories 
bursting all at once upon my bewildered brain, and I lived 
again those days from the hour when I first saw Neil 
Gleazen on the porch of the inn, through the mad night 
when we left Topham behind us, through the terrible 
seasickness of my first voyage, through the sinister ad- 
venture in Havana, through all the uncanny warnings of 
those African witch doctors, up to the very hour when 
Seth Upham threw wide his arms and went, singing, down 
to die by the spring. I remembered our wild flight, the 
battle in the forest, the race down the river, the fall of the 
mission, and again our flight, the girl was with us now ! 
the affair of the cruiser, the quarrel, the duel, and the 
voices that I heard as I lay on deck. Then I came to a 
black hiatus. Memory carried me no further and I wea- 
rily closed my eyes, having no strength to keep them open 
longer. 

Next I knew that good Gideon North was standing over 
me, his hand on my pulse; there was a sharp throbbing 
pain in my shoulder where Gleazen's sword had struck 
home ; I was vaguely aware that the girl was sobbing. 

Now why, I thought, should anything trouble her? It 
was not as if she, like me, had come up against a wall that 
she could not pass. I seemed actually to throw myself at 
that black rigid barrier which cut me off from every event 
that followed and my delirious metaphors were sadly 
mixed left me balanced precariously on a tenuous col- 



334 THE GREAT QUEST 

umn of memories that came to an end high up in a dark 
open place, like the truck of a ship in a black, stormy night. 

I heard Gideon North speaking of fever and my wound ; 
then the picture changed and the girl alone w r as sitting be- 
side me. She was singing in a low voice, and the song 
soothed me. I did not try to follow the words ; I simply 
let the tune lead me whither it would. Then I went to 
sleep again, and when I woke my memory had succeeded 
in passing the barrier that before had balked every effort. 

Now I remembered things that had happened while I 
lay in my berth in my stateroom. I put together things 
that had happened before and after my duel. It was as if 
I reached out from my frail mast of memories and found 
accustomed ropes and knew that I could go elsewhere at 
will. I felt a sudden new confidence in my power to think 
and speak, and when the girl once more appeared, I cried 
out eagerly, even strongly, "Now I know what, who, and 
where I am." 

At my words she stepped quickly forward and laid her 
hand on my forehead. The fever had gone. With a little 
cry she turned, and I heard her say to someone in the 
cabin, "His face is as cool as my own !" 

In came Gideon North, then, and in the door appeared 
Arnold. 

"Bless me, boy !" Captain North cried, "you're on the 
mend at last." 

"I think I am," I returned. "What happened to me?' 

"Happened to you? A touch of African fever, my lad, 
on top of a dastardly stab." 

"Where's Neil Gleazen?" I cried. 

"Oh, he's getting along better than he deserves. Our 
friend Lamont, here, spitted him delicately; but he es- 
caped the fever and has had an easier time of it by far 
than you, my lad." 



WESTWARD BOUND 335 

He once more counted my pulse. "Fine," he said in his 
heartiest voice, "fine enough. Now turn over and rest." 

"But I Ve been resting for days and days," I protested. 
"I want to talk now and hear all the news." 

"Not now, Joe. We'll go away and leave you now. 
But I '11 have cook wring the neck of another chicken and 
give your nurse, here, the meat. She has a better hand at 
broth, Joe, my boy, than ever a man-cook had, and I'll 
warrant, two hours from now, broth '11 taste good to you." 

So I went to sleep and woke to a saner, happier world. 

In another week I was able to be up on deck and to lie 
in the open air on cushions and blankets, where the warm 
sunshine and the fair wind and the gentle motion of the 
sea combined to soothe and restore me. It was good to 
talk with Arnold and Captain North, and with Abe Gup- 
til, who, at my request, was ordered aft to spend an hour 
with me one afternoon ; but why, I wondered, did I see 
so little now of Faith Parmenter ? 

She would nod at me with a smile and a word, and then 
go away, perhaps to lean on the rail and watch for an hour 
at a time the rolling blue sea, or to pace the deck as if 
oblivious to all about her. 

On that night at the mission weeks before, when neither 
of us even knew the other's name, she had spoken to me 
with a directness that had even more firmly stamped on 
my memory her face as I had first seen it among the man- 
groves. On that terrible day when her father had gone out 
from the mission house to die, when dangers worse than 
death had threatened us from every side, she had cast her 
fortunes with Arnold's and with mine ; in all the weeks of 
my pain and fever, she had tended me with a gentleness 
and thoughtfulness that had filled me with gratitude and 
something more. But now she would give me only a nod 
and a smile, with perhaps an occasional word ! 



336 THE GREAT QUEST 

Why, Arnold and even old Gideon North got more of 
her time and attention than did I. I would lie and watch 
her leaning on the rail, the wind playing with stray ten- 
drils of her hair, which the sun turned to spun gold, and 
would suffer a loneliness even deeper than that which I 
felt when my own uncle, Seth Upham, died by the spring 
on the side of the hill. Could there be someone else of 
whom she was always thinking? Or something more in- 
tangible and deeper rooted ? More and more I had feared 
it ; now I believed it. 

To see Cornelius Gleazen, his right arm still swathed in 
many bandages and his face as white almost as marble, 
eyeing me glumly from his place across the deck, was the 
only other shadow on my convalescence. With not a word 
for me, or for my friends, for that matter, he would 
stroll about the deck in sullen anger, for which no one 
could greatly blame him. He had no desire now to return 
to our home town of Topham; his bolt there was shot. 
We had refused him passage to the port of lawless men 
where no doubt he could have plotted to win back the 
brig and all that he had staked. Little grateful for the 
compromise by which he gained the privilege of landing 
on another continent, he kept company with his thoughts 

- ill company they were ! - - and with Matterson. But 
more than all else, it troubled me to see him watching 
Faith Parmenter. 

As I would lie there, I would see him staring at her, un- 
conscious that anyone was observing him. He would 
keep it up for hours at a time, until I did not see how she 

- or the others - - could fail to notice it ; yet apparently 
no one did notice it. The man, I now learned, and it sur- 
prised me, had a cat-like trick of dropping his eyes or 
looking quickly away. 

As I grew stronger, I would now and then stand beside 



WESTWARD BOUND 337 

her, and we would talk of one thing and another ; but with- 
out fail there was the wall of reserve behind which I could 
not go. She was always courteous ; she always welcomed 
me ; yet she made her reserve so plain that I had no doubt 
that it was kindness alone which led her to put up with 
me. Only once in all that westward voyage did I feel that 
she accepted me as more than the most casual of ac- 
quaintances, and I could see, as I thought it over after- 
wards, that even then it was because I had taken her by 
surprise. 

It came one night just when the sun was setting and the 
moon was rising. The shadows on deck were long and of a 
deep umber. The mellow light of early evening had washed 
the decks and all the lower rigging in a soft brown, while 
the topsails were still tinted with lavender and purple. 
We were running before a southeast wind and - - though I 
incur the ridicule of old sailors by saying it there was 
something singularly personal and friendly about the seas 
as they broke against our larboard quarter and swept by 
us one by one. I know that I have never forgotten that 
hour at the end of a fair day, with a fan 1 wind blowing, 
with strange colors and pleasant shadows playing over an 
old brig, and with Faith Parmenter beside me leaning on 
the taffrail. 

We had been talking of trivial things, with intervals of 
deep silence, as people will, especially in early evening, 
when the beauty of the great world almost takes away the 
power of speech. But at the end of a longer silence than 
any that had gone before it, as I watched her slim ringers 
moving noiselessly on the rail, I suddenly said, "Why do 
you never tell me about your own life? In all this time 
you have not let me know one thing about yourself." 

As she looked up at me, there was a startled expression 
in her eyes. 



338 THE GREAT QUEST 

"Do you," she said, "wish to know more about me?' : 

"Yes." 

She looked away again as if in doubt ; then, with a little 
gesture, which seemed for the tune being to open a gate 
in that wall of reserve which had so completely shut her 
away from me, she smiled and spoke in a low, rather 
hurried voice. 

"My story is quickly told. I was born in a little town in 
Dorset, and there I lived with my father and my mother 
and nurse, until I was sixteen years old. My mother died 
then. The years that followed were - - lonely ones. It was 
no surprise to me - - to anyone - - when my father de- 
cided to give up his parish and sail for Africa. We all 
knew, of course, how bad things were on the West Coast. 
People said our English ships still kept up the wicked 
trade. But they were ships from Brazil and the West 
Indies, manned, I believe, by Spaniards and Portuguese, 
that gave us the most trouble. There were Englishmen 
and Americans now and then, but they were growing 
fewer. We thought we were done with them ; then you 
came. Even after you had come, I told my father that you 
were not in the trade ; but my father already had seen 
him" - she moved her hand ever so slightly in the direc- 
tion of Gleazen, who likewise was leaning on the rail at a 
little distance, "and he would believe no good of you. 
If only he could have lived ! But you came. And here am 
I, with only you and an old black servant." 

She looked up at me with a sudden gesture of confi- 
dence that made my heart leap. 

"I am glad you came," she said. 

Her hand lay on the rail beside mine, but so much 
smaller than mine that I almost laughed. She turned 
quickly with an answering smile, and impulsively I tried 
to cover her small hand with my larger one. 



WESTWARD BOUND 339 

Deftly she moved her hand away. "Are you so silly?' 
she gravely asked. 

At that moment I was quite too shy and awkward for 
my own peace of mind. She seemed suddenly to have 
stepped away from me as on seven-league boots. I cer- 
tainly felt that she was angry with me, and I ventured no 
more familiarities ; yet actually she merely moved her 
hand away and stayed where she was. There was that 
about her which made me feel like a child who is ashamed 
of being caught in some ridiculous game ; and I think now 
that in some ways I was truly very much of a child. 

For a long time we watched in silence the rolling seas, 
which had grown as black as jet save for the points of 
light that they reflected from the stars, and save for the 
broad bright path that led straight up to the full moon. 
But when the moon had risen higher and had cast its cold 
hard light on the deck of the brig, Cornelius Gleazen 
edged closer to us along the rail. 

"Good-night," she murmured in a very low voice, and 
gave a little shudder, which, I divined, she intended that 
I should see. Then, with a quick, half-concealed smile, she 
left me. 

All in all, I was happier that night than I had ever been 
before, I believe, for I thought that we had razed the wall 
of her reserve. But lo ! in the morning it was there again, 
higher and more unyielding than ever; and more firmly 
than ever I was convinced that she had not told me all 
her story ; that there was someone else of whom she was 
thinking, or that some other thing, of which I knew noth- 
ing, preyed upon her. 



CHAPTER XXXIII 
THE DOOR OF DISASTER 

ON the morning when we sighted land, I saw the big 
Fantee canoeman standing in the waist and looking with 
eager eyes at the distant shore. I suppose it was because 
I was still so weak that it did not thrill me as my first 
glimpse of Africa had thrilled me. We had known for 
some time that we were off the La Plata River by the 
changed color of the water ; but the shores that we now saw 
were mere sandy beaches and low hills, which stretched, 
Captain North said, from Cape St. Alary up the river it- 
self ; and I, having somehow got the notion that I should 
see grand cliffs and mountains, was sadly disappointed in 
them. 

At about nine o'clock in the morning of that first day 
we passed an island on which there were more seals than 
I had ever seen in any one place ; and at about eleven we 
came to a small town, whence with light, fair winds we 
continued on our way up the river toward Montevideo. 

For our venture into unfamiliar waters we could not 
have desired better weather than thus far prevailed ; but 
about sunset the wind rose and a dense fog blew in ; 
whereupon Captain North decided to haul off shore a few 
miles and anchor for the night, which we did about fifteen 
miles below the city. The wind, meanwhile, was rising to a 
gale. At eight o'clock, as it was still rapidly increasing, we 
paid out a considerable length of cable, and the Adventure 
rode with much less straining than before ; but Captain 
North, I could see, was by no means well pleased with 
our situation, and as we went below to supper I overheard 



THE DOOR OF DISASTER 341 

him say to Matterson, who continued to hold the berth of 
chief mate, "Tend the cable with care, Mr. Matterson, and 
keep a good look-out." 

Whatever Matterson's reply, I lost it ; but to this day 
I remember his giant figure as he stood there on the quar- 
ter-deck, his jacket buttoned tight up to his throat, his 
arms folded, with the wind racing past his gray stubble of a 
beard. His strength was still impaired by his wound, al- 
though at last it had healed clean ; but there was no sign 
of weakness in his bearing. In the dim light and the rising 
gale he loomed up big, bold, and defiant. 

Small wonder that I remember him as he looked then ! 
It was almost the last time I ever saw him. 

We were five at the table that night, Captain North, 
Gleazen, Arnold, Faith, and I, and Abe Guptil served 
us as steward. 

With Mr. Severance in his own quarters asleep during 
his watch below, and with the trader whom we had res- 
cued sent unceremoniously forward to keep company with 
the cook, we should have had a pleasant time of it but for 
the presence of Gleazen, whose sullen scowl dampened 
every word we spoke. Why the fellow ate with us instead 
of waiting for Matterson, I am sure I do not know, unless 
it was sheer perversity. Not one of us had a word to say 
to him, yet there he sat, with his arm in a sling and the 
folds of bandages showing through his waistcoat as broad 
ridges, now glaring at Arnold, now eyeing Faith Par- 
menter ; and his few words could have brought little com- 
fort even to him. 

"How she pitches !" Arnold exclaimed, as wine from his 
glass fell in a red blot on the cloth. 

"This wind," said Gleazen gloomily, "puts me in mind 
of that little yell Seth Upham gave when they got him." 
His voice sank almost to a whisper. 



342 THE GREAT QUEST 

Now, as the brig plunged, Abe Guptil stumbled while 
crossing the cabin and fell to his knees, yet made out by a 
desperate effort both to hold his tray upright and to keep 
the dishes from sliding off against the bulkhead. 

"Bravo !" cried Gideon North. 

"Yes, sir," Abe replied, brightly, "that was a clever one 
and I'm proud of it." 

It had been impossible to teach him the manners of his 
new work, but we cared little about that. 

"Hark !" said Faith. "What was the noise?" 

"Nothing, so far as I know," Captain North replied. 
"How she pitches and jumps ! Give me a ship under sail, 
steadied by the wind abeam." 

"I've heard Bud O'Hara use them very words," said 
Gleazen. 

Again silence followed the man's ill-chosen remark. 

"When we have put our passengers ashore," Arnold be- 
gan with a significant glance at Gleazen, "shall we - 

"Captain North!" 

Matterson's light voice calling down the companionway 
brought the old mariner to his feet. 

Gleazen, who had seemed to be on the point of making 
some ill-tempered retort, slumped back in his chair as Cap- 
tain North rose. 

"What will you have, Mr. Matterson ? " 

"I wish you'd come on deck, sir," came Matterson's 
reply. "I'm in doubt whether or no we're drifting." 

"Drifting?" 

The old man went up with haste, and I followed close at 
his heels. 

"I don't like the feel of the lead," he remarked, when, 
after gaining the deck, he laid hands on the lead-line. 
"But what with the current of the river and our pitching, 
I can't be sure. Are those breakers to leeward?" 



THE DOOR OF DISASTER 343 



"I think, sir," Matterson replied, "that they are only 
the white tops of the waves." 

Matterson showed more genuine deference now than I 
had ever seen in him before, which in itself went far to 
convince me that affairs were going badly. 

"They may be," the old man replied, "but I'm in- 
clined to doubt it." And with that he went aft over the 
stern into the boat. 

Evidently the nearer view convinced him that they 
were indeed breakers, for he returned with surprising 
agility. 

"Call 'em up, Joe," he hoarsely cried, "every living 
soul. We 're in a bad way. You, Mr. Matterson, get ready 
another anchor and send men to clear the cable tier below. 
Quick now." 

I heard those in the cabin start to their feet when I 
called, and a moment later Gleazen burst out and up the 
ladder. Behind him came Faith, whom he had passed in 
his rush to the deck ; then, a moment later, Arnold, who 
had stopped to shake Mr. Severance out of a sound sleep. 

The white crests were nearer now, and approaching at a 
startling speed. The roar alone told us they were breakers. 
A wave curled along the rail and a torrent of foam cas- 
caded over the bulwark, washed the length of the deck, 
and eddied for a moment above the scuppers. 

The breakers were upon us and all about us. Their deaf- 
ening roar drowned out every sound in the brig. Then we 
struck. The man at the wheel was thrown to his knees, but 
held his place. One or two men succeeded in clinging to 
the rigging. The rest of us went tumbling up against the 
rail. 

I really did not understand the expression on Gleazen's 
face. I simply could not yet comprehend the terrible dan- 
ger in which we were placed. To me, being no sailor, any- 



344 THE GREAT QUEST 

thing would have seemed possible at sea ; but now, when 
we were so near port, indeed, actually in sight of land, 
- it seemed utterly incredible that we could be in deadly 
peril. But it was a terrible lesson that put an end to my 
folly. A second blow followed the first shock of our strik- 
ing, then a third still heavier, then a sea broke clean across 
our bows, carrying one poor wretch overboard and driv- 
ing two more back to the quarter-deck. With a fearful, 
despairing yell the luckless fellow went past us and down, 
and as he did so I saw clinging to his shoulders a fright- 
ened animal and knew that we had seen the last of Pedro 
and his monkey. 

The next sea broke over the whole weather side of the 
good Adventure, and only by clinging fast to the rigging 
did any one of us manage to retain his hold on the pound- 
ing wreck, which, desperate though her plight was, repre- 
sented our one chance for life. 

Now in a voice that rose above the roar of the tempest 
Gideon North thundered, "Cut away the masts! Cut 
away the masts!" 

A lull followed, and for a moment we dared hope that, 
once the brig was freed of all weight aloft, she would right 
herself and go over the bar in such a way that we could let 
go our anchor on the farther side and so bring her up again 
into the wind. But the lull brought us only despair when 
the carpenter answered him by shrieking at the top of his 
voice, "The axe has gone overboard." 

So swiftly and so mightily had the succession of seas 
burst over us that of all hands only ten or a dozen were 
left on board. I could see them in a line clinging pre- 
cariously to the weather-rail. At first, in dazed horror, I 
thought Faith Parmenter was not there ; then, seeing 
someone drag her back through the wash of the sea, I my- 
self strove to reach her side. Another sea broke, and again 



THE DOOR OF DISASTER 345 

she almost went overboard ; then I saw that it was Abe 
Guptil who was holding her with the strength of two men. 
Then the great black figure of the Fantee canoeman worked 
along the rail ahead of me and took a place beside her, 
opposite to Abe, and helped to hold her in the brig. 

It was plain to every one of us what the outcome would 
have been had not a cross-current now thrown the pound- 
ing hull at a new angle, so that for a breathing-space those 
of us who were left alive had opportunity to take other 
measures for safety. But the very wave that did that also 
sent the masts by the board and, instead of lightening us, 
cluttered the decks with a hopeless snarl of ropes and 
canvas. 

I was farther forward than the others, and so weak from 
my long illness that for a moment I could only strive to re- 
cover my strength and my breath. I saw them haul the 
filled boat up to the stern and, by sheer strength and audac- 
ity, raise her clear of the breakers, empty out half or two 
thirds of the water and let her go back again into the sea, 
where she rode sluggishly. 

Into that rocking boat, first of all, sprang Matterson. 
Close after him scrambled the craven trader, and after 
him Neil Gleazen. 

"Cast off!" I heard Matterson yell. "She'll founder 
with another soul aboard her." 

And off they cast, those three men, abandoning every- 
one of the rest of us to whatever end fate might hold in 
store. 

That they should leave behind them those of us who had 
been from the first their enemies was not surprising ; but 
that they should abandon thus, on a wreck that we all 
could see was doomed to break up in a few hours, if not 
literally in a few minutes, a girl who had done them no 
harm whatsoever, whose only fault lay in coming from 



346 THE GREAT QUEST 

quite another world than theirs, was contemptible beyond 
belief, if for no other reason than that she was but a young 
girl and they strong men. 

I would not have believed it of even them. I could 
scarcely believe my eyes when I saw them go. But as if to 
deal them a punishment more fitting than any that we 
could devise, while the brig was pounding ia the breakers, 
a wave, sweeping clean over her, wrenched the trysail 
boom about and parted the sheet and flung the boom in a 
wide half-circle squarely on top of the boat, which it 
crushed to kindlings. Whether or not it hit any of the 
three cowardly knaves a direct blow, it left them struggling 
like so many rats in seas that speedily carried them out of 
our sight into the darkness. 

No doubt we should have seen more of their fate had 
our own plight been less desperate; but the boom, as it 
swung down on the boat, raked across the taffrail, and 
those of us who had been clinging there in a long line, los- 
ing our hold on what up to that point had represented to 
us our only chance for safety, threw our arms round the 
boom and clung fast to that and with it were swept away 
from the wrecked brig, straight through the breakers that 
foamed between us and the shore. Holding the boom it- 
self with one arm, I struggled to give Faith what help I 
could with the other ; but we must both have been washed 
off the leaping spar, had not the big black Fantee canoe- 
man, who all this time had been working closer and closer 
to his beloved mistress, plunged under the boom and, com- 
ing up on the farther side, seized both her and me with a 
grip like a gorilla's. Meanwhile Abe Guptil, as strong as a 
bear, in a flash had seen how effective the Fantee's ma- 
noeuvre was, and had tried to duplicate it for himself, 
Arnold, and Gideon North, who had been washed to the 
farther end of the spar and nearly carried away from it. 



THE DOOR OF DISASTER 347 

But he only partly succeeded, for to him the water was not 
nearly so natural an element as to the mungo, and he 
began his attempt later and completed it more slowly. 

Coming up on the far side of the boom, gasping and 
choking from a wave that struck him squarely in the face, 
he clasped hands with Arnold and tried to do so with 
Gideon North ; but as his outstretched arm groped for him, 
the sea tore the old sailor away and we five were left alone 
on the long spar, two of us on one side and three on the 
other, with arms and bodies locked around it. 

Brave Gideon North ! There was little time then to feel 
his loss ; but it was to grow upon us more and more and 
more in the weeks and months to come. Stout-hearted, 
downright, thoughtful, kind it is very seldom that one 
gets or loses such a friend. 

The spar rolled and turned as it swept toward the shore. 
Now we were pounded and battered and almost drowned 
by the breakers ; now we got a chance to breathe and re- 
gain our strength as we came into deeper, quieter water ; 
now we were swept again through breakers that tossed us, 
half drowned, into surging shallows. And so, holding fast 
to one another, we were cast up on the shore in the dark- 
ness, where we crawled away from the long waves that 
licked over the wet sand, and sat down and watched and 
waited and watched. 

Twice we heard someone calling aloud, and once I was 
sure that I saw someone struggling toward us out of the 
surge. But though we staggered down to the sea and 
shouted time and again, we got no answer. Slowly the con- 
viction forced itself upon us that we five and some half a 
dozen sailors who had reached land before us were all who 
were left alive of the passengers and crew of the brig 
Adventure ; that after all there was no hope whatever for 
Gideon North, that bravest of master mariners. 



348 THE GREAT QUEST 

To such an end had come Cornelius Gleazen's golden 
dreams ! Through suffering and disaster, they had led him 
to the ultimate wreck of every hope ; his own catastrophe 
had shattered the future of more than one innocent man, 
and had caused directly the death of many innocent men. 

It was a wild dawn that broke upon us on that foreign 
shore. The wind raged and the sea thundered, and black, 
low clouds raced over our heads. To watch by daylight 
the terrible cauldron through which we had come by dark 
was in itself a fearful thing ; and beyond it, barely visible 
through the surf, lay the broken hull of the Adventure. 
So far as we could discover, there was no living creature 
in all that waste of waters. 

My dream of being a prosperous ship-owner lay wrecked 
beside the shattered timbers of the Adventure ; and know- 
ing that, after all my youthful dreams of affluence, I now 
was a poor man with my way in the world to make, I felt 
that still another dream, a dearer, more ambitious dream, 
likewise was shattered. 

If when I owned the brig and had good prospects Faith 
Parmenter had withdrawn behind a wall of reserve, if there 
had been someone else whom she held in greater favor, 
of whom she thought more often, what hope that I 
could win her now ? Starting to walk away from the others, 
I saw that she was ahead of me, staring with dark, tearless 
eyes at the stormy sea. I stopped beside her. 

"I suppose the tune of our parting is near at hand," I 
began. " If I can in any way be of service to you - 

"You are going to leave me now? Here?" 

There was something in her breathless, anxious voice 
that brought my heart up into my throat. 

"Not leave you, but - 

"But the time of parting has come?" she said, with a 
rising inflection. "It has found us in a wild and desolate 



THE DOOR OF DISASTER 349 

place," she smiled, "more desolate and less wild than 
the place from which we sailed. You came to me strangely, 
sir ; you go as strangely as you came." 

"If I can be of any service to you," I blindly repeated, 
"I- 

Still smiling, she cut me short off. "I thank you, but I 
think I shall be able, after all, to make shift. If someone - 
Mr. Lament, perhaps will take me to some town where 
there is an English church 

She still was smiling, but her smile wavered. 

Could she, I wondered with a sort of fierce eagerness, 
have told me all her story ? Was there, then, really noth- 
ing hidden? 

"If you "I began, "if I " 

Then she covered her face with her hands and sobbed, 
and for the first time I dared guess the truth. 

At what I then said, the words that opened the gate 
to the life we two have lived together, she smiled so 
brightly through her tears, that for the moment I forgot 
the dark shore, the stormy seas, and the terrible, tragic 
night through which we had passed. 

There was a wealth of affection in Arnold's kind, 
thoughtful face when we joined the others, and Abe Gup- 
til and the big Fantee, Paul, smiled at us it was good 
to see their smiles after the sufferings and sorrow that we 
all had passed through. 

"If only Gideon North and Seth Upham were here 
now!" Abe cried. 

"Poor Seth !" said Arnold. "What a price he has paid 
for one passionate blow." 

"What do you know?" I demanded. 

Arnold gravely turned. "I know little," he said. "But 
I have guessed much." 

"What have you guessed?" 



350 THE GREAT QUEST 



"They say in Topham that Neil Gleazen left town in the 
night and Eli Norton was found dead in the morning." 

While he paused, we waited in silence. 

"That, my friends, is why Gleazen for twenty years did 
not come back. But I once heard Gleazen say, when the 
mood was on him to torment Seth Upham, let people 
think what they would, that at least he - - Gleazen - 
knew who killed Eli Norton." 

"And you think that Seth Upham - 

He interrupted me with a Latin phrase - - "De mortuis 
nil nisi bonum." 

My poor uncle ! 

"You four," said Arnold thoughtfully, "will need money 
before you once more reach Topham." 

"But of course you are coming too," I cried. 

"No, I fear that I should not be content to live always 
in Topham." 

Taken aback by his words, I stared at him with an 
amazement that was utterly incredulous. 

"You are not coming back with us?' 

"No." Arnold smiled kindly and perhaps a little sadly. 

Unbuckling a belt that he had worn since I first knew 
him, he drew it off and opened it, and I saw to my further 
amazement that it was full of gold coins. "This," said 
he, "will go far to pay your expenses." 

"I cannot take gold from you," I cried. 

"Do not be foolish, Joe. We are old friends, you and I, 
and this by rights is as much yours as mine." 

He thrust the belt into my hands. " It is all for you, but 
there is enough for our good friend Abe, in case he parts 
from you before reaching Topham." 

"But you - 

"I have more. I am not, Joe, only that which I have 
pretended to be in your uncle's store in Topham, where 
you and I have had happy days together." 



THE DOOR OF DISASTER 351 

At my bewildered face, he smiled again. 

"My real name, Joe, is old and not obscure. I am one of 
the least illustrious sons of my house ; but I myself have 
served on the staff of the great Bonaparte. 

"And that - ' I could scarcely believe that honest Ar- 
nold Lament was saying these astounding things. 

"That is why it has been necessary at least advisable 
for me to conceal for so many years my identity. A 
man, Joe, does not tell all he knows." 



CHAPTER XXXIV 

AN OLD, OLD STORY 

IT was spring when we came back to Topham. The sun 
was warm upon the pleasant fields and gardens, and the 
blossoms on the fruit trees were thick and fragrant. The 
loveliest days of all the year were enfolding the pleasant 
countryside of New England in the glory and peace of 
their bright skies and soft colors ; and as the hired coach 
that brought us down from Boston, with black Paul, at 
once proud and uncomfortable in a new suit of white man's 
clothes, seated stiffly high beside the driver, rolled along 
the familiar roads, I pointed out to my bride the fan- 
scenes among which my boyhood had been spent. 

From Montevideo, which we reached on the evening 
following the wreck, there an old English clergyman 
married us, we had sailed to New York as passengers 
in a merchant ship ; but first we had taken leave of those 
two good friends, Arnold Lamont, whom we were never to 
see again, and Abe Guptil, who had bravely insisted on 
setting out to build anew his fortunes by shipping as sec- 
ond mate of an American bark then hi port. From New 
York a second ship had given us passage to Boston, whence 
we came over the same road to Topham that I had trav- 
eled so long before with Arnold and Sim and Abe and Neil 
Gleazen and my uncle. 

We ought, I suppose, to have been a properly anxious 
young couple, for of the great sum in gold that Arnold had 
so generously advanced us only a small part remained, and 
what I should do in Topham, now that Uncle Seth's store 
was hi other hands, I had not the slightest notion. The 



AN OLD, OLD STORY 353 

tower of golden dreams that poor Seth Upham had built 
in idle moments had fallen into dust ; Neil Gleazen's un- 
scrupulous quest had brought only ashes and bitterness ; 
it was from the shadow of a great tragedy that we came 
into that golden morning in spring. But great as had been 
those things that Faith and I had lost, we had gained 
something so deep and so great that even then, when in 
discovering it we were so happy that the world seemed too 
good to be real, we had not more than begun to appre- 
ciate the wonder and magnitude of it. 

Thus I came back to Topham after such a year and a 
half as few men have known, even though they have lived 
a full century - - back to Topham, with all my golden 
prospects shattered by Gleazen's mad adventure, but with 
a treasure such that, if all the gold in the world had been 
mine, I would eagerly have given every coin to win it. 

With my bride beside me, her hand upon my arm, I 
rode into sleepy little Topham, past my uncle's house 
where I had lived for many happy years, past the store 
where Arnold and poor Sim Muzzy and I had worked to- 
gether, past the smithy where even now that old prophet, 
the blacksmith, was peering out to see who went by in the 
strange coach, and after all was failing to recognize me at 
the distance, so changed was I by all that had befallen 
me, up to the door of the very tavern where I had first 
seen Cornelius Gleazen. 

There I handed my dear wife down from her seat in the 
coach, dressed in a simple gown and bonnet that became 
her charmingly, and turned and saw, waiting to greet me, 
the very landlord whom last I had seen reeling back from 
Gleazen's drunken thrust. 

At first, when he looked at me, he showed that he was 
puzzled ; then he recognized me and his face changed. 

My fears lest the good man bear me a grudge for my 



354 THE GREAT QUEST 

share, small though it was, in that villainous night's work, 
vanished there and then. "You!" he cried, with both 
hands outstretched; "why, Joe! why, Joe! We thought 
you were long since lost at sea or killed by buccaneers 
such a story as Sun Muzzy told us !" 

"Sim Muzzy?" I cried. "Not Sun!" 

"Yes, Sim!" 

Then I heard far down the road someone calling, and 
turned and saw - - it was so good that I rubbed my eyes 
like a child waking from a dream ! - - actually saw Sim 
Muzzy come puffing and sweating along, with a cloud of 
dust trailing for a hundred yards behind him. 

"Joe, Joe," he cried, "welcome home ! Welcome home, 
Joe Woods!" 

And as I am an honest man, he fell to blubbering on the 
spot. 

"Things are not what they used to be," he managed at 
last to say. "The new man in the store don't like the 
town and the townspeople don't like him, and I've been 
living in hopes Seth Upham would come home and take it 
off his hands. But who is this has come back with you, 
Joe, and what's come of Seth Upham?' 

At that I presented him to my wife, who received him 
with a sweet dignity that won his deepest regard on the 
spot ; and then I told him the whole sad story of our ad- 
ventures, or as much of it, at least, as I could cram into 
the few minutes that we stood by the road. 

"And so," I concluded, "I have come back to Topham 
with not a penny to my name, save such few as are left 
from Arnold's bounty." 

Sim heard me out in silence, for evidently his own trials 
had done much to cure him of his garrulity, and with 
a very sad face indeed he stood looking back over the 



AN OLD, OLD STORY 355 

village where we had lived and worked so long together. 

"Poor Seth Upham!" he said at last. "Well, there's 
nothing we can do for him now. And as for Neil Gleazen, 
he's better dead than back in Topham, for here he'd 
hang as sure as preaching. Jed Matthews, they say, never 
moved a muscle after Neil hit him on the head. But as for 
you, Joe, you're no penniless wanderer." 

"What do you mean by that?" I asked. 

"There was all of fifteen thousand dollars on board the 
brig." 

"What makes you think that?" 

" Did n't I help Seth store it in his trunk? 'You're 
simple, Sim, and honest,' he says to me. 'I '11 not have an- 
other soul besides you know this, but you're as honest as 
you are simple.' Them's the words he said, and I was 
that proud of 'em that I've treasured 'em ever since." 

I thought of the papers and bags we had stored in the 
wagon that night when we fled from Topham. 

"He hid it well," I replied. "But even if he had not 
hidden it so well, I fear that it would nevertheless be at the 
bottom of the La Plata River, just as it now is, with the 
brig, and all the goods that were on board her, and many 
men that sailed in her, good and bad alike." 

"But that is not all." 

"Not all? What do you mean?" 

"Seth Upham left money in the bank, and I've seen 
his will with my own eyes. 'T was found in the safe after 
we left town, and turned over to Judge Fuller." 

"But surely, what with buying the brig and taking all 
his papers, which I looked over myself in the cabin of the 
Adventure and which were lost, every one, when she 
broke up, he had nothing left. Why, the brig must have 
cost a pretty penny." 



35(y THE GREAT QUEST 



. . * 



'That may well be, Joe, but there's money in the bank, 
for all that. Seth Upham had more money tucked away 
than most people would have believed." 

I thought this over with growing wonder. "I do be- 
lieve, my love," I said, "that we shall be able to make a 
fair start in the world after all, and, which is more, repay 
certain debts at once." 

Faith smiled as she looked up at me ; then she turned 
and looked at the quaint old town, which was spread be- 
fore us in the sun. 



CHAPTER XXXV 

EHEU FUGACES ! 

SIM MUZZY'S tale, when he bethought himself to tell 
it to us, was a lively one in its own way, although it did 
not, of course, compare with our African adventures. The 
press-gang that set upon us in Havana had rushed him 
away to a Spanish ship, where he was kicked about and 
cruelly abused, until, at peril of his life, he dropped over- 
board in the dark and swam to an American schooner, 
whose captain, hearing his story, took him on board and 
hid him in the chain-locker until they were well on their 
way to Boston. Thence Sim had set out on foot for Top- 
ham, where he had hired himself once again to tend the 
store and had led a dog's life ever since. 

That Sim was right about Uncle Seth's bank accounts 
and his will, which left all to me, I learned before sunset 
that very day. The sums were not large in themselves, and 
taken all together they were small enough compared with 
the golden dreams my poor uncle had lived in ; but they 
assured Faith and me of comfort at least ; and when that 
evening I called upon the new storekeeper and found him 
so eager to escape from a town where his short measures 
and petty deceits had made him unpopular and discon- 
tented, that he was not in the mood to haggle over the 
bargain, I bought back the store on the spot. 

" There '11 be happier days ahead, Sim," said I when I 
came out. 

"0 Joe, I'm sure of that," he replied, his face bright 
with smiles ; for he had overheard considerable of our dis- 
cussion. 



358 THE GREAT QUEST 

Within the week the papers were signed, and before a 
fortnight was up Faith and I went out, arm-in-arm, on 
the old hill road and saw the men break ground for the new 
house that we were to build. 

Whether any of the others, unknown to Faith and me, 
had made their way ashore on the night of the wreck, we 
never learned ; but it was virtually impossible that they 
should have done so without revealing themselves to those 
of us who had ranged all that bleak coast the next morning. 
For honest Gideon North we mourned as for one of the 
dearest of friends, and of the rest we thought sometimes 
in the years that followed. But none of them, except our 
own Abe, ever came to Topham, nor did I ever go back 
to the sea. 

Three letters at long intervals brought us news of Ar- 
nold Lament ; and to the address that he gave in the first 
we sent with our reply a draft for the sum that he had so 
generously lent us when on that wild South American 
shore we four had set out to begin life anew. They were 
good letters, and there was no note of complaint in them ; 
yet as I read them and thought of the Arnold Lamont 
whom I had known so long and, all things considered, so 
intimately, I could not but feel that in the cities of South 
America and, later, of Europe he failed, whatever com- 
pensations there may have been, to find anything like the 
peace and quiet happiness that he once had found in our 
New England town of Topham. 

The week before the walls of our new house were raised, 
Faith and I drove together along a road that I had tramped 
on an autumn afternoon, to the farm where Abe Guptil 
had lived in the days that now seemed so long ago. We 
carried with us certain papers, which changed hands in the 
kitchen where Abe and his little family had slept the night 
when I was their guest ; and so it happened that, when Abe 



EHEU FUG ACES! 359 

returned from his voyage and came to see me at the store 
full of honest joy at my good fortune, I sent him off to 
his own old home with the assurance that the terms by 
which he was to buy it were such that he need never fear 
again to lose it. 

As the town of Topham has grown around us, Faith and 
I have grown into the town and with it ; and although the 
black Fantee, Paul, who remained the most faithful of serv- 
ants, was a nine days' wonder in the village, there now 
are few people left, I imagine, who know all the wild, well- 
nigh unbelievable, yet absolutely true, story of the year 
when we first met. A royal fortune may have been lost 
with Seth Upham and Neil Gleazen in Gleazen's mad 
quest, but I can say in all sincerity that from his quest I 
gained a fortune far beyond my deserts. 



THE END 



CENTRAL CIRCULATION 

CHlLDREi '3 ROOM 




Montevideo 



THE COURSE OF Tl 




VE NTTJRE